The Boys’ War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil War by Jim Murphy (Unit 8)


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Murphy, Jim. The Boys’ War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil War. Clarion Books: New York, 1990. ISBN 0899198937.

Plot Summary:

This book is the account of the children who fought in the Civil War. Some boys were as young as twelve years old.

Critical Analysis:

This book is very informative. I actually learned a few things about the Civil War that I didn’t know (for example, the boys being as young as twelve.)

The writing is okay. I wasn’t captured throughout the whole book, but it was well written. It was slow to read, but interesting. I’m sure it is easier for those who are civil war buffs.

The one thing I would’ve liked to see was citing and footnotes. I understand children don’t usually pay attention to those things, but they are important, and it’s important that children know that they should be used.

The strengths of this book are the use of primary sources and the sepia photographs. It makes it feel more real than just reading about it.

Review Excerpts: 

From Publishers Weekly:

“From first chapter (“So I Became a Soldier”) to last (“We’re Going Home”), this wrenching look at our nation’s bloodiest conflict through the eyes of its youthful participants serves up history both heartbreaking and enlightening.”

From School Library Journal:

“Their accounts bring to life, as no other versions can, the Civil War and all of its glories and horrors. An excellent selection of more than 45 sepia-toned contemporary photographs augment the text of this informative, moving work.”

From Kirkus Review:

“A survey of experiences of youths, 16 and under, fighting in the Civil War. Basing his chronological text on diaries and letters, Murphy covers battle experiences, training, camp life, medical treatment, and prison camps; a brief afterword provides a broader context of boys fighting in other wars and notes that the Civil War was the last one in which American boys were allowed to join the armed forces. The use of quotes from primary sources and the apt choice of well-reproduced photos (in sepia tones) are the strengths here. There’s a lot of information on soldiers’ daily lives, but little on the specific roles the boys played. Undistinguished writing, but useful.”

Received The Golden Kite Award Book from the Society of Children’s Book Writers 1991.


Other books on the Civil War:

Gettysburg: The True Account of Two Young Heroes in the Greatest Battle of the Civil War by Iain C. Martin ASIN: B00F21VXSU

A House Divided: The Lives of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee by Jules Archer ISBN 9781632207654

When Brother Fought Brother: The American Civil War by Carole Marsh ISBN 9780635023469

Other books by Jim Murphy:

Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting ISBN 9780545130493

Blizzard: The Storm that Changed America ISBN  9780590673099

The Giant and How He Humbugged America ISBN 9780439691840


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Adrinna Davis

Hello there! Not much to me, I'm just your average author and librarian who is obsessed with Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Merlin, Divergent, ect... who is married with two kids. :) And now blogger. I love children's lit and want to share with you all the amazing books I find!

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