The Book Reviews – Website

September 21, 2008

Bull Run

Bull Run

Author: Paul Fleischman

Page Length: 104

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Historical Fiction, Drama

REVIEW: The first battle of the Civil War was “Bull Run”. And the author, whose book bears the same name, takes a different spin on the event. Instead of a usual chapter by chapter account of fighting, Fleischman inserts 16 characters each with their own perspective on the war during the same time period. These 16 characters enter periodically throughout the book. The format makes for a great example of Reader’s Theater where each student in the class could take the part of one of the characters in the book.

The characters in Bull Run are varied. Half are individuals from the northern states and half are from the south. Some are white while others are African-American slaves. Males and females characters as well as young and old ones are included. The characters’ locations range from Minnesota and Arkansas to Massachusetts and Virginia. The characters’ occupations are that of ditch diggers, cooks, infantry fighters, photographers, musicians, etc. Page 104 provides a good outline as to where the characters’ parts are included in the book.

All the characters themselves are fictional, except for that of General Irwin McDowell. The events and details however are factual. 

I felt the purpose of the book was not to explain the details of the battle so much as to convey the emotions and “little things” that went on behind the scenes. For students with little interest in military and war books, Bull Run proves to be a great alternative. Many discussions can arise from reading this book such as the effect the battle had on families to the role slaves played in the war. The Civil War affected everyone, not just those that saw the blood and gore first-hand. However, there were many who did not hold a gun that saw the gruesome effects of bullets and fighting. I would highly recommend this book as it is a great way to approach the topic of conflict both from a literary standpoint as well as a historical one.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: reading map, compare/contrast, characterization, simile (pages 9, 35, & 45), Reader’s Theater – teacher can assign character parts to 16 different students and have the students read out-loud. Students could even go beyond the text with projects such as (writing a biography of the person, dressing up as the character, etc)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: There are no major areas of concern contained in this book, unless the subject of war, death, killing, and blood is too much for certain individuals.   

RELATED BOOKS: The Red Badge of Courage, Across Five Aprils, Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Glory” (1989), “Gettysburg” (1993), “Gone With the Wind” (1939), “North and South” (TV – 2004/1985), “The Red Badge of Courage” (1951)

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: “Dixie”, “Yankee Doodle”, “The Star Spangled Banner”, “Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys”, “The Girl I Left Behind Me”

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.smplanet.com/civilwar/civilwar.html

http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/bull/bulltg.html

http://www.audiobookshelf.com/bullrun_cc.html

http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/civwnov/civilwar6.htm

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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