BRAVING THE FIRE by John B. Severance


Age Range: 10 - 12
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When he is 15 or 16, Jem Bridwell marches off to the Civil War in search of “the glory” he believes battle brings to warriors. Predictably, after many of these battles, the boy realizes that “glory is a fool’s dream.” His family of Marylanders holds slaves but he joins the Union, as had his father, and like Henry in Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, learns that soldiering can be tedious, horrifying, and full of blood and death. Severance gives sharp sketches of daily life and real battles, hours of boredom and minutes of frightening horror. Jem and his best friend Hank enlist and go through the army experiences together until Jem may or may not have killed Hank in the smoke and fatigue of a battle. Readers may not be certain that Hank is dead because Jem, who has been wounded, is rescued in a serendipitous coincidence (perhaps too coincidental) by one of his family’s runaway slaves and thus can only assume he has killed his friend. Severance (Skyscrapers, 2000, etc.) has heretofore written nonfiction and his first attempt at fiction finds him working too hard to be descriptive. Plainly a solid researcher, he is still finding his way into presenting his findings without forcing them on the reader. Still, a carefully told story about this period of time is always welcome and it is to be hoped that Jem’s story will be continued. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 2002
ISBN: 0-618-22999-X
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Clarion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2002


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