Well, fiddle-dee-dee! Picture book author Rosemary Wells has penned a rousing Civil War novel whose heroine is the very antithesis of spoiled southern belle Scarlett O’Hara. India Moody is the daughter of a modest Virginia harness maker who reluctantly leaves home to become an ambulance wagon driver for the Confederates. In his absence, India (who is a daddy’s girl through and through) pines for him as she tries to help her mother keep their family together while the war goes on and resources become scarcer. She is encouraged and inspired by her teacher, Emory Trimble, a young man of science who teaches India all about the wonders that exist beneath the glass of the microscope. After a friend up North writes to tell her that there is a college in Ohio that accepts women, India becomes determined to work her way there, war or no war. Soon Emory follows her father to the battlefield and India finds herself unable to just sit and wait for bad news. She leaves home to find her father, and ends up smack dab in the middle of the bloody battle of Sharpsburg. Will India survive long enough to find her father and realize her dream of a college education? Although Wells succumbs to the occasional bit of melodramatic purple prose (in this example, literally): “Mauve is a pinkish purple of such delicacy I can only hold the silk square to the light and gaze at it. I have seen it only in petunias and stained-glass windows,” it suits India’s rebellious, yet lady-like personality. And who doesn’t enjoy a little historical melodrama, especially of the skirt-swishing, finger-wagging, swooning sort? I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what would happen to India and her dream of studying science with the big boys, and I will definitely be recommending Red Moon to my 8th grade students next year as a perfect selection for their Civil War book project.
Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells