Book review: Gunpowder Girls by Tanya Anderson

gunpowder-girlsQuindaro Press, 2016

The Civil War is the bloodiest war that happened in our country, killing millions and uprooting our country both economically and personally.  We’ve heard of places like Antietam and Gettysburg.  We also know the name of people associated with the Civil War, such as Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln.  Why do we know this?  Because it is taught in curriculum and found in textbooks.  But there is always the hidden documented history of the Civil War most people don’t know about. These are true stories about the women of the Civil War.

Long, hot days at work, most of the time twelve hours of labor six days a week.  Coming home after walking to and from work stained with twelve hours of labor and dust.  Thinking about the danger of the job but knowing it needed to be done to keep a roof over their families heads and food on the table.

Most of the workers were considered women in that era.  Today, they would be considered children and teenagers.  Girls as young as 10 were chosen because they hands were small and quick, making for a more productive product.

The product?  Ammunition for the guns and muskets used by both sides of the Civil War.  Imagine sitting at a table filled with small metal balls, paper, string, and gunpowder everywhere.  There is no safety equipment nearby and no regulations keeping the workplace safe.  It was just the girls working together in cramped quarters, wearing the traditional heavy hoop skirts, working in a potentially life-threatening job.  And during the Civil War, three different tragedies occurred…

This book is the stories of not only the tragedies, but also about the girls themselves, and the investigation and outcome of those responsible.  Tanya Anderson shares with the reader not only the stories, but also her in-depth research and how she become intrigued with this part of the Civil War.  What is most impressive about this is that voice the book is written in.  This isn’t a dry tome of American history, but voices of the victims, witnesses, and others that were part of these tragedies, including Abraham Lincoln.

What makes this a draw for teens is the size of this narrative non-fiction and the interest the author creates to pique interest in what will happen next.  Perfect for junior high and high school libraries, this should be on the shelves showing readers that women were passive bystanders of the Civil War, but involved in many ways in the conflict.  Highly recommended.

FICTION BOOK PAIR:

18114594

Danny Wright never thought he’d be the man to bring down the United States of America. In fact, he enlisted in the Idaho National Guard because he wanted to serve his country the way his father did. When the Guard is called up on the governor’s orders to police a protest in Boise, it seems like a routine crowd-control mission … but then Danny’s gun misfires, spooking the other soldiers and the already fractious crowd, and by the time the smoke clears, twelve people are dead.

The president wants the soldiers arrested. The governor swears to protect them. And as tensions build on both sides, the conflict slowly escalates toward the unthinkable: a second American civil war.

With political questions that are popular in American culture yet rare in YA fiction, and a provocative plot that asks what happens when the states are no longer united, Divided We Fall is Trent Reedy’s very timely YA debut. (A.Levine Books)

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Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

wolf-by-wolfLittle, Brown and Co, 2015

1944.  Yael remembers her childhood….the needles poking into her thin frame, the straw in the mattress she shared with her mother in the barracks, the beatings, the deaths.  And she is reminded everyday by the tattoo on her arm put there by the Nazis.

1956.  Her tattoo is now covered by five wolves. and although Yael no longer sees it, the wolves remind her of those she loved who died.  She is no longer a young child, but a young woman and part of the resistance movement.  Twelve years after the horror of the concentration camp and the experimentation she went through with the Angel of Death doctor, life is still dangerous.

Hitler is still in power, and the face of Europe has changed. There are now two world powers:  the Third Reich, and Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, ruled by Hirohito in Japan. The Soviet Union and Italy have fallen.  Hitler now uses areas in Europe and Africa as Lebensraum, a place for Aryan people to live, thrive and grow.

Yael is an integral part of the plan they have to get rid of Hitler once and for all.  Yael is special because she has unique abilities, ones she received from the experimentation done to her in the camps.  She can now change shapes, becoming someone totally different without anyone knowing who she truly is.  Even she is wonders who are what her true self is….

But that doesn’t matter as much as getting close to Hitler.  And there is only one event where this could possibly happen – The Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.  Every year, the Axis Tour happens, a cross country grueling motorcycle race.  Prague. Rome. Cairo. Baghdad. New Delhi. Dhaka. Hanoi. Shanghai. Tokyo.  Not all riders will see it to the end and only the victor will be allowed at the ball.

Yael has stolen the identity of Germany’s finest racer, a girl named Adele.  That was the easy part.  The difficult part is surviving the race and wondering who is telling the truth and who isn’t.  Can she trust Adele’s brother, who says he’s there to protect her?  What about Luka, her old rival and lover, who says one thing that could mean another?  Most importantly, will Operation Valkyrie work and put an end to Hitler’s reign?

How did this book slip through my hands?  I couldn’t read this fast enough.  An alternate history dystopian book, this had all the elements to keep readers intrigued from the characters and their endgames to the fallout of Europe after WWII.  Descriptive in narrative, the reader will be pulled straight into the espionage as well as the life or death race that will leave them gasping at the end.  Sequel published this year (and I can’t WAIT to read it!)  If you have readers wanting great dystopia in an alt history, give them this!  Highly recommended 7-12th grades.