Posted tagged ‘Civil War’

PB Review: The Clothesline Code

February 18, 2021

The Clothesline Code: The Story of Civil War Spies Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Trisha Mason, Brandylane Publishers, Inc., 2021

Have you ever thought about becoming a spy? Is it dangerous? What if you get caught? Award-winning author, Janet Halfmann‘s newest book, The Clothesline Code, tells a compelling story about Dabney and Lucy Ann Walker, two black patriots, who fled slavery and became spies for the Union Army during the Civil War.

Dabney and Lucy Ann found refuge and work in a Union camp near the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Lucy Ann worked as a laundress, and Dabney worked as a cook and scout. Camped across the river was Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army. Major General Hooker of the Union army wanted to find out every detail about the enemy. Dabney volunteered to help by becoming a spy. He told Lucy Ann about the flags the Union soldiers used to send coded messages. Together the two of them came up with a clever way to use different colors of clothing and different patterns of hanging laundry on a clothesline to send messages across the river.

Dabney and Lucy Ann worked hard to flesh out every single detail of their code and practiced until they knew exactly how to work it. It was time for Lucy Ann to take her place as a spy. She used her wits to cross the Rappahannock River and blend in with the other women doing laundry in the Confederate camp. She washed clothes for General Lee and his officers, and she also cooked for them. She was in the perfect place to gather information. Spying was a dangerous job, but the clothesline code worked well. Dabney decoded the messages sent by Lucy Ann which then provided General Hooker with valuable information about the enemy forces. Janet Halfmann has written a powerful story of two extraordinary black patriots who were willing to risk their lives so others could enjoy freedom. Trisha Mason‘s illustrations help tell the Walkers’ story, depicting emotions of fear and elation experienced by Dabney and Lucy Ann. This book is a fascinating look at American history and how two heroic people came up with an ingenious idea to help the Union Army during the Civil War.

A perfect book to celebrate African American History Month!

Picture Book Month – Biographies

November 21, 2013

Picture book biographies shine. They offer readers an easy way to learn about well-known people as compared to reading a longer biography that may be too daunting for them.

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Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball written by John Coy and illustrated by Joe Morse is a picture book biography that shines. In 1891 in Springfield, MA, James Naismith took over a gym class that no one else wanted to teach. In desperation, he created a game that required skill and rules that had to be followed if the players wanted to remain playing. His game piqued the interest of the boys, and basketball became a hit. Coy provides concise information about how James Naismith invented the game of basketball and how it became a national pastime. The graphic illustrations by Joe Morse offer readers a glimpse into the time period when basketball was invented. Make sure to look at the endpapers to see Naismith’s first draft of basketball rules.

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Another picture book biography worth reading is Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Carlyn Beccia. Krull offers a slice of Louisa May Alcott’s life that played an important role in the way she ultimately looked at her own life. In 1862, Louisa traveled to Washington D.C. to help nurse the wounded and sick soldiers of the Civil War. Conditions in the makeshift hospital were horrible, and tending to the seriously wounded soldiers made Louisa come face-to-face with the reality of war. In her short time there, she saw the disparity between how white workers and black workers were treated. Three weeks into Louisa’s time in Washington, she became very ill and was eventually brought home by her father. Alcott’s experience in Washington was live-changing. Her heartfelt writing about what she saw in the hospital made editors sit up and pay attention. Her writing was suddenly in demand. Soon afterward, she was asked to write a book about girls. Little Women, set during the Civil War, was the result, and it became a best seller. Carlyn Beccia’s colorful illustrations and Kathleen Krull’s story give readers a new look into the life and writings of Louisa May Alcott. Back matter and endpapers in the book provide more information about the time period. A list of  websites related to Louisa May Alcott and a timeline of her books can also be found.


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