Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

From Slave to Soldier: Based on a true civil war story

From Slave to Soldier: Based on a true civil war story

Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator:  Brian Floca 
For ages 6 to 8
Simon and Schuster, 2005   ISBN: 978-0689839665

Johnny was a slave working on a plantation in Tennessee. He worked hard all day around the plantation but he never got thanked for his labors and if something went wrong he was beaten. Johnny hated being a slave and hoped that Uncle Silas was right and that President Abraham Lincoln would one day set him and the other slaves in the south free. He wondered if he would ever have the opportunity to fight for the Union in the civil war that was raging across the land.

Then one day a large group of Union soldiers walked past the plantation where Johnny lived and worked. One of the soldiers invited Johnny to join them and after a brief moment of thought, Johnny decided to join the Union soldiers and leave his life of slavery behind.

It was not easy getting used to life in the army for the men were always moving and one could never be sure what was going to happen next. Johnny got a job helping to take care of the mules and later he became a real mule-team driver having proved to himself and to others that he could do the job well and with courage.

In this interesting young reader's chapter book Deborah Hopkinson retells the story of a real slave who was able to make the transition from being a slave to being a soldier in the Union army. In addition to the engaging and interesting narrative the author provides her readers with further information about Johnny in her "Author's Note" at the back of the book.