Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Visual Dictionary of the Civil War

The Visual Dictionary of the Civil War

John Stanchak
For ages 10 and up
Dorling Kindersley, 2000   ISBN: 978-0789451668

Today it is hard to imagine the United States ever being in the turmoil that is created when there is civil war. A civil war must be the very worst kind of conflict as it tears a country apart from within and drives neighbor to fight neighbor. In this superbly, well thought-out book, all the major aspects of the war are examined. One does not get the story of the war directly but instead the feel of what it was like to live through and be a part of the war.

The author has pulled together an enormous amount of information about the trappings, main characters, and institutions of the American Civil War. The book is divided into double page spreads, each of which discusses and describes one topic. In addition to the highly informative text there are annotated photographs and illustrations of people, places, artifacts, and documents. The topics covered include: Foot Soldiers, Elite Troops, Southern Leaders, Rifles, Camp Life, Slavery, Railroads, Ironclads, and much more.

What is particularly fascinating about this book are the photographs of the artifacts from the Civil War period. We are able to see what the uniforms looked like, what the battle flags looked like, and what the soldiers carried on their person as they trudged across the countryside. Particularly disturbing is a section which describes the medicines and medical practices used during the war. We are shown a doctor?s kit and are left in no doubt as to the crudity of health care in those days.

This book is very accessible to a whole range of readers. For the older reader there is the text which provides a background for the topics described. For the younger reader there are the numerous photographs and illustrations to look at and wonder over. In short this book is very much like a museum in that its 'visitors' can take what they please from the 'exhibits' and enjoy the experience of browsing the pages in their own way.