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SEEING THE ELEPHANT by Pat Hughes

SEEING THE ELEPHANT

A Story of the Civil War

By Pat Hughes (Author) , Ken Stark (Illustrator)

Age Range: 8 - 10

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-374-38024-3
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

In a tale loosely based on fact, a Pennsylvania lad’s attitude toward war is transformed when he sees some of its effects. Israel chafes at being left behind when his two big brothers march off “to see the elephant”—a contemporary metaphor for battle—and “teach the Rebels to behave.” Then one brother comes back with a wasted body and a once-sunny nature gone dark and angry after two bouts with typhoid. Later the enemy acquires a face when, after a brief meeting with President Lincoln, Izzy talks to a dying prisoner in a Washington hospital. Faces in Stark’s paintings are stiff, but his scenes are rich in period detail and capture the general look of both interiors and of streets crowded with soldiers. Interspersing his narrative with letters sent and received, Izzy clearly tracks his change of heart, and in the end fires off a missive to his brother back home announcing that he’s seen the elephant, “and he was the ugliest beast on this earth.” All the more effective for its restrained tone, this will leave readers with the insight that no side in a conflict has a lock on right or wrong. (afterword) (Picture book. 8-10)