My Scott O’Dell Award Challenge Book for this month is the 1994 winner, Bull Run, by Paul Fleischman.
This young middle-grade novel follows multiple protagonists, both children and adults, from the beginning of the Confederate attack of Ft. Sumter in April 1861 through the first battle of Bull Run three months later.
Multiple protagonists–In my last award challenge post, I mentioned that it is unusual to find kids’ historical fiction with multiple protagonists, with the exception of romances or verse novels.
Bull Run is neither.
In Bull Run, each protagonist has his or her own first person point of view chapters reoccurring throughout the novel, and each protagonist has his or her own story arc.
There are a lot of protagonists–16, in fact. They represent both the North and the South, soldiers and civilians, young and old, male and female, black and white, slave and free. In other words, Fleischman is giving readers a thorough overview of the battle.
Fleischman also structured this novel this way to be used as a play or readers’ theater text, which makes it a good story to spark classroom discussions.
The First Battle of Bull Run (also known as the First Battle of Manassas Junction)–This battle took place on July 21, 1861, and was the first major battle of the Civil War. Soldiers were inexperienced, and many on both sides of the war expected to quickly win the war.
Although the Confederates won this battle, they were not able to follow through to end the war. Both the Union and Confederates realized it would not be a short war.
Bull Run is probably one of the most well-known battles of the war for me, and yet many of the websites I looked at for more info focused on the decisions of the generals and movements of the groups of soldiers.
Novels, such as Bull Run, include many of those battle details, but also give readers insight into the motivations and experiences of the individuals involved.
I think hooking kids into stories about historical people is a very effective way of getting the kids interested in learning more about an event.
For example, one of Fleischman’s protagonists is a free black man from Ohio who is frustrated at not being able to fight with other free blacks against slavery, so he hides his identity and joins a white regiment. Another one of Fleischman’s protagonists is an orphan from Arkansas who decides to join the Confederate calvary just so he can have a horse of his own. Then there’s the artist who plans to record the battle and ends up joining it.
For more info:
Join me June 28 to discuss the 2001 Scott O’Dell Award Winner, The Art of Keeping Cool, by Janet Taylor Lisle.
How did you get interested in history? What other kids’ historical fiction have you read that shows lots of viewpoints of the same event?