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SOLDIER BOY by Brian Burks

SOLDIER BOY

By Brian Burks

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-15-201218-4
Publisher: Harcourt

 Johnny ``The Kid'' McBane, forced to flee from his crooked bare-knuckle boxing promoter in Chicago, enlists in the cavalry by lying about his age. After some initial hazing, he is posted to Custer's Seventh Cavalry at Fort Lincoln. There he makes a few friends, endures some pranks, and gets ready to move against the Indians in the spring. This exciting story from Burks (Runs With Horses, 1995) is marred: Readers who seize upon the introductory note's mention of ``thoroughly researched historical data'' will come away from the novel with the impression that army life of the period consisted mainly of vicious hazing and dangerous practical jokes and little in the way of training, duties in camp, barracks life, planning, or strategy. The ending is shockingly abrupt: The first Indian encounter and first battle occur only in the final three pages, and Johnny is killed in the last two paragraphs without firing a shot. It's a realistic ending, in a narrative not driven by realism; it may show how pointless war is, but it may also make readers feel as if they've been taken for a ride. (map, bibliography) (Fiction. 12+)