As part of Mother Reader's 48 Hour Blog Challenge to read and review children's books, I chose How I Found the Strong: A Novel of the Civil War, by Margaret McMullan, as my first book. Written for 9-12 year olds, it's the story of Frank Russell, a ten-year-old Mississippi boy who stays at the family farm with his mother and Buck, a slave, while his father and brother go off to fight in the Confederate Army. McMullan does not spare anything about the hardship of war; there are some gory descriptions of a field hospital and casualties and later a lynching.
This is a well-written book about a decent and kind-hearted family, slightly marred by the choice of dialect for Buck's character. At one point Frank and Buck are looking at some fireflies, and Buck says, "Dere dey all go." He does not always speak that way. I should note that no one in the novel speaks grammatically.
There is plenty of drama here; the novel moves quickly. I would call it both anti-slavery and anti-war—no glories of the Old South here. I give How I Found the Strong four stars out of five.
I started the 48HBC at 1 p.m. and hope to read at least a couple of other books by 1 on Sunday.
How I Found the Strong, by Margaret McMullan
Houghton Mifflin, 2004
Hours to read: 2 (on and off)