Book Review: Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run
Who wouldn’t want to go back in time? Correct that stupid thing you said at soccer practice, right the wrongs or the world, re-enjoy that really good sandwich you ate last summer – the possibilities are overwhelming. Time travel is especially appealing to kids, eager to mull over the prospects of a different reality. Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run mixes the Civil War with a trip through time, told from the perspective of a sarcastic early teen.
Stonewall is part of a Virgina family of Civil War reenactors. While he once found the family hobby fun, as Stonewall has gotten older, his attitude has soured. In fact, he would rather do just about anything than pretend to be a bugle boy in the confederate army. When our hero forgets his instrument at home and is forced buy a new one, he comes upon a special bugle that transports him back to to real battle of Bull Run. While thrown into the mix of dodging bullets and staying alive, Stonewall runs into his great-great-great-great uncle Cyrus. But it isn’t just a family reunion. Hard-core confederate Nathan Dupree is also there from the future, looking to change the outcome of the war in favor of the South. Stonewall faces a tough predicament – stop Dupree while not interfering with history in the process.
While time travel to an important historical event isn’t a new concept, Helphill and Riddleburger make a valiant effort in updating this well-tread story concept. This book has voice to be sure. Told first-person through the eyes of the titular Stonewall, readers will take to his modern, sarcastic, and often genuinely funny point of view.
The decision to make Stonewall and his family reenactors was a good one. It’s not a pastime that makes it into many kids books, and that unfamiliarity will draw readers in. Why do people do this? What is it like? These questions arise and are answered.
Going from funny to serious is a tough transition to make. As Stonewall finds himself transported to a honest-to-goodness Civil War battle, the jokes take an expected backseat to his serious realizations of war. While this shift is handled smoothly, the ability of the reader to weather this change in tone will make or break the book for some. A couple Civil War clichÃ©s (like the North/South brother fighting against brother) pop up here and there, thankfully not sticking around long enough to drastically disrupt the flow of things.
Being male, I feel qualified to say that this is a book for boys. It is. Nothing wrong with that. While it won’t win over every reader, there are a lot of boys who will relate to Stonewall Hinkleman, and wonder how they would react if put in his shoes.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
Filed under: Reviews
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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