Title: Magic Tree House #21: Civil War on Sunday
Author: Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrator: Sal Murdocca
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc., 2000
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Age Range: 2-3 Grade
Summary: Jack and Annie are trying to find "something to follow" from the Civil War. They are taken to a battlefield where many soldiers are wounded and Annie helps them. They end up at a field hospital, where soldiers are taken care of and then sent back out to fight. Annie and Jack help at the field hospital. They are given a list to follow in taking care of the men, exactly what they needed. Jack wants to leave, but Annie insists on staying. The two end up using all the tactics on the list to help take care of patients. They meet Clara Barton, a great Civil War Nurse, who has them help her get soldiers off the battlefield. They find a drummer boy, who looks like Jack, who is dehydrated. They take him back and take care of him. The two arrive back home, and find out that their great great great grandfather served as a drummer boy in the Civil War, and he lived.
Response: This was one of my favorite books in the Magic Tree House Series. I love learning about history, and this book is full of wonderful facts about the Civil War. Like always, they are in bold print, with many more in the back of the book so that readers can learn more. Jack quickly learns that war is not some kind of "game" he thought it was before arriving there. I think this is true for many people. We see video games and movies that glorify war, but it is a necessary evil that plagues the world. The list that Jack and Annie get is important because they literally must follow it, and as they do, they learn great lessons. The first on the list is "Be Cheerful." They take water into tents for the soldiers, and at first, Jack is not very happy to do it. He has a hard time being cheerful when he sees these men hurt and sick. A man thanks Jack for giving him water, and Jack responds by telling him that he will be able to see his family again. However, Jack is not aware that this man is fighting in the war to earn his freedom from slavery, and his family has been sold a long time ago. The second thing on the list says 'Lessen sorrow and give hope", and Jack does this by telling the man that one day his great grandchildren will be able to hold whatever career they desire. This really lifts the spirits of the man. Jack and Annie "Put aside their own feelings" when they are helping the Drummer Boy. He wants to go back out there and fight, but Jack and Annie wish he would stay and go home when he feels better. They realize how important this is for the young boy, and tell him that once he is feeling better he should go back to the battlefield. "Don't give up" was the last thing on the list, and they learned this lesson from Clara Barton. She was determined in her cause to help every soldier, Confederate or Union. She told them, "When someone is hurt, you give them a helping hand, no matter who they are...I have seen courage and kindness on both sides of thiswar. Sometimes things are not as simple as they seem" (p.47-48) She helped everyone and never gave up on the soldiers. I think her quote is very significant. Both sides of this war were fighting for what they believed was right. It divided the United States, causing more deaths than all wars combined. It was a great and terrible time for the country, and people like Clara Barton were important in realizing and seeing the good in all people. Jack and Annie help to show students that the Civil War was one of the most important events in our nation's history.
Teaching Ideas: I think that students could write a story about being in the Civil War, or writing about an important person in the war.
There is great information and websites listed on the Magic Tree House site about the Civil War