In October 1863, a 10-year-old minister’s son in Augusta, Ga., finds himself at a moral crossroads after secretly befriending a wounded Union soldier.
When an injured, one-armed soldier arrives at the Confederate hospital, Tommy and his greyhound Samson see him drop a book. The soldier, whose name is Red, is grateful when Tommy returns the lost book. Red explains this “commonplace” book is where he records poems and stories, and he reads Tommy his poem about fighting to “make the nation whole,” a decidedly un-Confederate view of the war. Red’s unusual accent and kind treatment of a slave working in the hospital convince Tommy “there’s something different” about this soldier. Tommy confronts Red, who admits he’s a Union soldier and believes “men should be free” and “slavery is wrong.” Red asks Tommy help him escape to his family in Ohio. The direct third-person narration belies Tommy’s huge dilemma. Taught to distrust Yankees as enemies, Tommy will break the law if he fails to report Red, but Red’s his friend and he doesn’t want to send him to prison camp. Eventually Tommy finds his moral compass and helps Red for all the right reasons. Realistic pencil sketches highlight pivotal scenes.A genuine young hero learns the meaning of friendship, loyalty and freedom in this suspenseful Civil War vignette. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)