Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross

Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross

Augusta Stevenson
Illustrator:  Frank Giacoia 
Nonfiction  Series
For ages 8 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 1986   ISBN: 978-0020418207

Clara's family love their littlest member whom they all pet, worry over, and discuss in great detail. Her sisters and brothers are all much older than her and they all love to teach her things, as does her father. Her mother worries that perhaps the little girl is getting too much book learning and not enough hands on time. So Clara's mother starts teaching her daughter how to cook and other domestic skills, and the rest of her family teach her about geography, literature and history. Clara's bothers also teach her how to ride and soon the child is fearless and very skilled on horseback.

Unfortunately she is not fearless when it is time to be around strangers. Clara has a painfully difficult time at school, being afraid to play with the other children and to participate in class. Her family sends her to a boarding school to see if perhaps she will be able to grow out of her shyness if she lives in a different environment. The experiment is a disaster and soon Clara is back home.

What is extraordinary is that Clara loses all her bashfulness when she is called on to help others whether they are humans or animals. Clara soon gets a reputation for being a skilled animal healer and many of her neighbors bring their sick animals to her.

It is not surprising therefore that Clara grew up to become a famous Civil War nurse and health care reformer. Clara seemed to have a bottomless reserve of compassion and energy when the welfare of soldiers and people in need was an issue. Because of her efforts America joined the Red Cross, an organization which helps soldiers in times of war, and disaster victims at other times.

This excellent biography makes the life of young Clara Barton accessible and interesting to young readers. The author gets inside the mind and heart of Clara and helps young readers see how Clara's future was shaped by the experiences she had and the skills that she acquired when she was a child.