Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Diary of a Drummer Boy

Diary of a Drummer Boy

Marlene Targ Brill
Illustrator:  Michael Garland 
For ages 9 to 12
Millbrook Press, 2000   ISBN: 978-0761313885

These days wherever Orion goes he hears the adults talking about the problems between the North and the South. Like his father and their neighbors, Orion hates the idea of slavery and does not think that it should be allowed to continue. He also finds it hard to understand how the Southern States think that it is acceptable for them to leave the Union.

Soon everyone is talking of war. Orion and his brother Lyston are good drummers and both want to enlist. At first Lyston is the only one who is allowed to join the army as a drummer boy but then Orion manages to persuade his stepmother to allow him to become a part of the great cause as well.

Before long Orion, Lyston, and their father are all in the 55th Regiment together, traveling to the battlefront. Orion quickly comes to recognize that there is very little glory in war. Instead there are long marches, poor food, illness, and confusion. The 55th Regiment marches across the Tennessee countryside until Orion experiences a real battle for the first time at Shiloh in April of 1862. Now the boys can see what war is really like. All they can do is to drum well, help those in need, and hope that they come out of this terrible adventure in one piece.

This is the fictionalized account of the story of a real thirteen-year-old drummer boy whose bravery during the Civil War won him the Congressional Medal of Honor. By telling his story in the form of a diary, the author brings the boy’s story to life giving it a feeling of immediacy and making it possible to readers to get a real sense of what it must have been like for Orion to be a part of this terrible war.