150th Anniversary of the Civil War

America’s bloodiest war began 150 years ago Tuesday when Confederate forces attacked the U.S. militia at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.  Ending with the abolishment of slavery and a death toll that exceeds every war since put together, you could say that the Civil War changed the course of American history in more ways than one.  What better way to teach elementary school kids about this pivotal war than with some great picture books!

Michael and Derrick are outraged when their Grandmother forbids them from taking their iPods and cells phone with them on their trip to Washington D.C. They sullenly walk around a museum in Harpers Ferry in West Virginia looking at Civil War memorabilia. However, their excitement rises when they get to try on Union uniforms and the curator lets them play a very special “game.” Suddenly they’re transported back to 1862, two days after the Battle of Antietam. The boys quickly realize that this is no game as they’re faced with the horrors of battle and get to meet Abraham Lincoln. Will they be able to return to their time, or will they be stuck in the past forever? Along with Pink and Say and January’s Sparrow, this new work by Polacco is the perfect addition to her Civil War trilogy.

We all know that Abraham Lincoln was honest, but did you know that he was funny? Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer cleverly portray how Lincoln used his love of words and laughter to win over a nation and inspire great change. From an early age, Lincoln loved learning and reading aloud. Knowing his looks were homely, Lincoln wasn’t afraid of making fun of himself; “Common-looking people are the best in the world; that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.” But the authors aren’t afraid of showing the darker periods of Lincoln’s life, including the death of his son and the strain of the war. This book is perfect to show kids a new side of one of America’s favorite presidents.

Patricia Bauer and her husband David Geister give a lyrical and artistic account of the the Civil War in B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet. The aspect I love about this series from Sleeping Bear Press is that there is a short poem for each letter that can be read aloud, or children can read the side bar to learn more in-depth information. I was able to attend a presentation by this husband-wife team and loved it! They dressed in Civil War garb and discussed how the book came about, from how the poems are set to the tune of “Hard Times Come Again No More” to David using Patricia’s students for his artwork. To hear Patricia’s musical rendition of the book, click here.

To check out more great titles from our Civil War hot topics list, click here.


B is for Battle Cry:  A Civil War Alphabet. Patricia Bauer and David Geister.  2009.

Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln. Patricia Polacco.  2011.

Lincoln Tells a Joke:  How Laughter Saved the President (And the Country). Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer.  2010.

Lindsey L.