For seventh-grader Oliver, nothing’s fair when it comes to war, first love, or group projects.
Finally, after dedicating most of his young life to the Civil War—memorizing battles, generals, and dates and even spending weekends as a re-enactor—Oliver hears the announcement he’s been waiting for: his social studies class will begin its study of the divisive war. He feels a rebellion of his own, however, when his teacher also announces that their culminating activity will be a partner project and his partner turns out to be Ella, a sloppy, near-failing loner. Things go from bad to worse when, instead of picking a prominent general, the white classmates are assigned Pvt. Raymond Stone, a soldier who died of dysentery in Gettysburg without making it to battle. Korean-American Kevin eventually joins Oliver and Ella, and together, the trio uses primary-source documents to research the fictional soldier’s life. Along the way in this peppy, informational story, they not only discover many surprises about the war, such as Quaker pacifism and the impact of and on African-Americans, but their own strengths as individuals. Headstrong Oliver even learns to lead with his heart—especially when it comes to Ella, who makes it skip a beat—and to see the humanity of the common participants in the Civil War.
Teacher Landis knows how middle schoolers work, and he shows his skill here. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)