GIRL IN BLUE by Ann Rinaldi


Age Range: 10 - 14
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Loosely based on an actual woman who disguised herself as a soldier during the Civil War, this historical novel tells the story of Michigan farm girl Sarah Wheelock, who becomes first a solider and then a detective for the Pinkerton Agency in Washington. On the verge of being forced to marry a vicious neighbor, Sarah sneaks off from home. Her plan is to visit an aunt in Flint and then join the Union forces disguised as a man. Rinaldi sticks to Sarah's point of view, but oddly fails to mine her materials for all the suspense and thrills inherent in the gender switching. Only once do readers see her evading latrines, and never is there a discussion of how any adjustment of her shape or sensibilities is required. Suspense builds on several occasions, each time dwindling to a fizzle. Sent to spy on Rose Greenlaw, a southern sympathizer, Sarah falls head over heels for a good-looking Lieutenant even though she suspects he may be a traitor. Before readers discover whether his professed love for her is true or if he knowingly aids Rose, Sarah falls ill and the story swerves again. Finally, Sarah returns for a quick visit home dressed in her soldier disguise, and unbelievably her mother fails to recognize her, although her brother does. African-American readers may not agree with Rinaldi's decision to use speech patterns for Negro refugees from the South without concomitant speech patterns for southern drawls or other accents. Rinaldi defends her choices in an author's note at the end, citing her desire for historical accuracy. Accurate or not, this is only one of a series of missteps that will disappoint readers used to Rinaldi's talent. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-439-07336-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2001


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