Sunday, February 6, 2011

Review: Old Abe, Eagle Hero

Written by Patrick Young
Illustrated by Anne Lee

There were a few well known regimental mascots during the American Civil War, and probably the most well known of them all was the 8th Wisconsin Infantry’s eagle Old Abe.  Patrick Young, great great grandson of Captain Victor Wolf, commander of Company C, 8th Wisconsin Infantry, has written a children’s book about the famous bird.

Mr. Young’s text follows Old Abe throughout his life, as a young eaglet raised by Native Americans, his war time experiences, and his life after the war are all detailed in the book.

The Civil War can be a tough subject to introduce young readers.  The concepts of war and death are scary to many adults, not to mention children, but Mr. Young’s book, with illustrations by Anne Lee, treads very carefully around these issues.  Written for readers between five to nine years old, the text does not go into the complicated issues of the war, but rather treats it as a mundane event, and is not at all scary for the readers of the younger set.

Anne Lee’s water color and ink illustrations are simplistically rendered with a gentle nod to the sensitivities of her young readers.  Battle scenes are shown, but from a distance, and therefore do not offer any graphic depictions of war,  In one close up, Old Abe can be seen dragging an unconscious soldier to safety with bullets flying through the air and explosions all around, but even this illustration does not offer graphic or gruesome images of the realities of war.

“Old Abe, Eagle Hero” never once talks down to, at, or over the heads of its young audience, though the facts of war, its causes and consequences are largely glossed over.  Through Old Abe, children can be gently introduced to the Civil War, and if they have questions about the war, I’m sure their parents and teachers can and will appropriately address those issues with the children.

ISBN 978-1-935279-23-5, Kane Miller Book Publishers, © 2010, Hardcover, 48 pages, Illustrations, $15.99

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