Slavery and the
Included in this chapter on the Civil War are a multitude of trade book recommendations and teacher resources. This is caused by the volume of fiction and nonfiction trade books available on this period in U.S. history. These trade books are of a variety of genre: fiction, nonfiction, biography, fantasy, and poetry. Although it is unlikely you will have the funds needed to purchase all of the materials listed here, they are included so that you can choose those that are the most appropriate for use with your students.
Every attempt has been made to include trade books that focus on all aspects of the war, including the roles of women, black soldiers, and children.
Begin this unit by introducing the topics of slavery and the Civil War. Read aloud the poem [A Visitor] by Sarah Smith Caldwell (see p. 72). Sarah was my great-great-great-aunt and an abolitionist in New York State. She wrote this poem in 1841. As slavery was a major cause of the Civil War, have your students think about and discuss the poem's meaning in this context. Find out what your students already know about slavery, the Underground Railroad, and the Civil War, and put this information on a wall chart.
Read Nettie's Trip South by Ann Turner (New York: Macmillan, 1987) to your class to spur further discussion about slavery. It is the story of a young white girl who writes to her friend about her horror at seeing how slaves were treated in the South. This story is based on a diary of the author's great-grandmother. The book was named an International Reading Association/Children's Book Council Children's Choice book in 1988.
Read Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco (New York: Scholastic, 1994) to your class to provide a springboard for further discussion about the Civil War. This is a wonderful story of the friendship between a black soldier and a white Ohio recruit during the Civil War. It is based on a tale that was passed down through the author's family.
Shades of Gray was chosen as the novel to be read with the entire class because it emphasizes differing views of the war. Carolyn Reeder's portrayal of the war's effect on families is excellent. Reading this novel with your class will help them to understand the war's devastating effects on our country, which went beyond the casualties of the soldiers. In turn, the students will have a means for comparison and insight when reading in small groups and independently.