Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Brothers' War: The War Voices in Verse

The Brothers' War: Civil War Voices in Verse
By J. Patrick Lewis
Featuring the Work of Civil War Photographers
Readers Guide
By Janelle Iley

Lewis, J. Patrick. The Brothers' War: Civil War Voices in Verse. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2007. ISBN: 9781426300363

Recommended Age Levels
This book is recommended for ages 12 and up.

Summary of Book
This book is a collection of poems about the different slaves and soldiers who were impacted by the Civil War, either by fighting in it, or by having friends or family members involved in the war. Their thoughts and feelings are captured through these writings that are in the form of free verse or rhyming poems and are displayed as poetry, letters, or songs. Throughout the book, the reader is able to capture the emotions of those who were affected by the Civil War and learn what the war cost them, especially those who lived during that time period, and learn how it still affects us today.

Review Excerpts
John Peters (Booklist, Dec. 15, 2007 (Vol. 104, No. 8)
If war is nothing more than lists of battles / Then human lives count less than saber rattles.” Written mostly in the voices of fictional and historical participants, these 11 poems are not so much narratives as cries of pain, fear, confusion, or release. Each is paired with a large, captioned period photograph—of a young soldier posing, of a slave’s scarred back, of bodies on a battlefield, of an armless veteran—and accompanied by a brief explanatory passage drawn from one of several sources. Along with back matter that includes a map, a time line, and an editorial note about photographer Matthew Brady and his followers, Lewis provides lengthy notes on his poems’ forms and inspirations. The educational content is useful for context, but the powerful words and pictures transcend their particular circumstances and will linger with readers. Grades 6-9

Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature)
With the lines, “If war is nothing more than lists of battles/ Then human lives count less than saber rattles,” Lewis leads the reader to his poetic tales of those affected by the American Civil War. The poems take the reader chronologically through the war. The image of a slave picking cotton recalls the major reason for the war. Within the poems are names of notables, such as Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and William Tecumseh Sherman. There are also fictional names of ordinary people, such as Roy Pugh, the Rebel son, who was shot by his Yankee sergeant father at the First Battle of Bull Run. Two of the poems are presented as letters between father and son and express parental concern and the fears of a prisoner of war. The grim reminder of the cost of war is in the final solemn, cadenced poem, “Passing in Review.” Great care was taken in the layout of this book. Almost every poem is accompanied by a photograph from the war and an informative caption. This is a superb way for older children and teens to be introduced to the Civil War. It also brings a deeper depth of understanding of the time period, the long-felt effects of that war, and the concept of war in general. An informative map of the United States in the years 1861--1865 is accompanied by a time line. Lewis describes his approach to this collection and each poem in the back of the book. An explanation of Matthew Brady’s studios, camera equipment, and the difficulties of taking of photographs is included as well. This book should be in every middle school, high school, and public library. It is an important addition to the Civil War collection of books. 2007, National Geographic Society, $17.95. Ages 12 to 18.

Anitra Gordon (Library Media Connection, February 2008)
These 11 original poems provide a fresh approach to studying the Civil War, one that students could continue by writing their own poems or news items based on events of the war. The short poems representing both sides cover topics such as slavery, cotton, specific battles, wounded soldiers, and letters to and from home. Most poems face a photo by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady that includes an informative paragraph about the subject of the poem. Notes on the photography, the author's notes on the poems, a map of the states in the Civil War, and a selective time line round out this informative, attractive book. Material on the Civil War can be overwhelming, yet this book extracts the essence of the war, the emotions felt by the imagined writers, and allows students to go on from there. Recommended. 2007, National Geographic Society, 48pp., $17.95 hc.. Ages 9 to 14.

Awards/Honors Received
*Winner 2008 NCSS/CBC Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies
*Winner 2008 IRA Teachers' Choices
*Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition Supplement 2008, 2008; H.W. Wilson Company
*Pure Poetry, 2007; Voice of Youth Advocates
*School Library Journal Book Review Stars, January 2008; Cahners
*Teachers' Choices, 2008; International Reading Association

Questions to Ask Before Reading

Invite the students to discuss the following questions before reading aloud The Brothers' War: Civil War Voices in Verse:
*What do you think the title The Brothers' War is about, based on the title and cover of the book?
*Do you have any ideas as to what happened during the Civil War?
*How do you think the history of the Civil War impacts our country today? What has changed since that time period?
*What do you think we can learn about war from this book and the people who fought in it?

Suggestions for Reading Poems Aloud
*“Down On the Plantation” – The teacher should read the poem aloud, and then the whole class should also read it aloud. After practicing reading the poem two or three times, the teacher should introduce actions with this poem. Actions should be used in accordance with the words: stoop, chop, scoop, dark, bent, and question mark. Every time these words are said, the students should act them out while saying them. Students will be able to imagine the lives of the slaves and fully understand what the words mean in the poem.

*“The Raider” – As a teacher, read the whole poem to the students while they are following along. Then, break up the stanzas and have the class alternate with you when reading it, again. Have the whole class read the second and fourth stanzas aloud, while you read the other stanzas aloud to them. By reading the poem like this, the students will understand the rhythm of it and be able to comprehend the feelings of the character's voice in the poem, which is supposed to be the voice of John Brown.

*“Blood of Our Fathers, Blood of Our Sons” – This poem has a lot of important details, so the teacher should read the whole poem aloud, and then, read it, again, repeating the lines 1, 4, 7, 11, and 14 twice. The third time the teacher begins to read he/she should have one student say each of the lines previously mentioned and repeat them twice as well. This will be important for students, since they need to be able to visualize what the poet is saying. By having one of them repeat some of the lines from the poem, the students will be able to imagine the emotions that were felt by the soldiers fighting in the war. They will especially understand the emotions of those who were fighting against their families. A similar method should be used in reading the following poems: “Boys in a Brothers' War” and “White Nightmare,” since these two poems also have a lot of strong visual imagery displayed and also depict people's lives affected by the war.

*“I am Fast in My Chains” – This poem is about Frederick Douglas. In order to gain another insight into the poem, the poem should be read aloud to the whole class while they are following along. Then, it should be read backward from bottom to top, with the students following along, again. The students will learn that poetry can be changed around, and they will also learn how it can develop different meanings, but still make sense.

*“Nathaniel Gwinnett-Shrapnel Wound” – Read aloud the whole poem, and then, have the whole class say every other line aloud as a group, starting with the first line and end by saying the last two lines together. Students will be able to hear the rhythm in the poem by saying every other line. A similar method should be used in reading some of the other poems: “Letters from Home,” “Letter Home,” “I Can Make Georgia Howl,” and “Passing in Review.”

Follow Up Activities

*This book has free verse and rhyming poems. As a class, identify the characteristics of each type of poem and have the students identify the poems in the book. Then, have students practice writing free verse and rhyming poems.

*Letters were also written in free verse in this book between a father who was at home and a son who was a soldier in the Civil War. Introduce students to letter writing and have them practice writing letters.

*Identify some figurative language that were used in the book. Afterward, have students practice writing using figurative language on their own.

*A lot of dates were used in the book to help the readers keep track of events. In order to practice some math skills, have students figure out how much time had passed between each entry in the book.

*Collaborate with a social studies class and have students research the overall population of the United States at the time just before the Civil War, and then, have them find out how many lives were lost in the war. After finding this information, have students create charts to compare the population before and after the Civil War.

*Introduce estimation, percentage, area, and measurement to the class. Use this book of poetry to help students practice understanding these concepts by having them estimate how long the war lasted, calculate the percentage of lives lost in the war, figure the area of one of the states, and measure the distance between Texas and Maryland and calculate the miles.

Photography is an important aspect in this book of poetry. Through the use of photography students are able to gain a visual understanding of the lives of soldiers and their families during the Civil War. Because of this gained understanding, students should identify some of the physical characteristics of people living in the Civil War era.

*Black and white photo images were used in this book. Discuss with students why the author used these images alongside the poems, rather than illustrations. Determine the author's purpose in using them and why it was important.

*Since photography was invented, stories have been told through pictures. Identify some major political figures in the Iraq War today, and have students find pictures to help create a story similar to The Brothers' War: Civil War in Verse.

*Since the book mentioned a lot about soldiers' wounds and deaths, students should do a research activity on medicines used during the Civil War. They should be able to answer the questions about the type of medications that were used, how often they were used, the purposes in using them, and how they were or weren't effective.

*Students should compare and contrast the medical practices used to save soldiers during the Civil War vs. now. They should make presentations in class and be able to identify the similarities and differences between then and now.

*New technologies and scientific discoveries were being made available during the Civil War time period. Since there were so many advances made, have students research the weapons and technologies that were available during the Civil War era.

Social Studies
*This book is about the Civil War, so students should go to the library and research important political figures or battles from the Civil War, such as: Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Frederick Douglas, John Brown, Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Shiloh, Battle of Gettysburg. Students should be divided into groups to work on projects and make presentations on these political figures or battles.

*Students should research the events of the Civil War. During class, each student should create a time line of the events that took place during the Civil War.

*Divide students into three groups. Give each group a specific state, such as: Kansas, Missouri, or Arkansas and have them research that state's involvement in the Civil War. Afterward, they should share their findings with the class.

Related Websites/Blogs
*J. Patrick Lewis' Website
[Learn about the author and some of the other books he has written. Look at information on speaking engagements, future books, and other educational links.]

*Civil War
“[Find information on battles, weapons, abolition and slavery, and people who fought in the Civil War. All of this information can be found on the website.]

*Google Lit Trips Website/Blog
[Explore some of the places that were mentioned in the book on this website.]
*History: American Civil War
[Interactive tools, information, videos, and resources for use in the classroom are all made available on this website.]

Related Books

Other Poetry
*Bauer, Patricia. B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet. Ill. by David Geister. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2009.
*Martell, Charles. A Man of Ampurdan: Grandfather's Spanish Civil War Poems. United States: CreateSpace, 2011.
*Negri, Paul. Civil War Poetry (Dover Thrift Editions). Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1997.
*Shange, Ntozake. Freedom's a-Callin Me. Ill. by Rod Brown. New York: Amistad, 2012.

Related Nonfiction
*Herbert, Janis. The Civil War for Kids: A History with 21 Activities (For Kids series). Chicago: Chicago Review Press, Inc., 1999.
*McPherson, James M. Fields of Fury: The American Civil War. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002.
*Murphy, Jim. The Boys' War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil War. New York: Clarion Books, 1990.
*Ray, Delia. Behind the Blue and Gray: The Soldier's Life in the Civil War
(Young Reader's Hist- Civil War). New York: Puffin Books, 1996.

Related Fiction
*Noble, Trinka Hakes. The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale (Tale of Young Americans). Ill. by Robert Papp. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2006.
*Osborne, Mary Pope. Civil War On Sunday (Magic Tree House #21). Ill. by Sal Murdocca. New York: Random House, Inc., 2000.
*Ratliff, Thomas, and David Salariya. You Wouldn't Want to Be a Civil War Soldier: A War You'd Rather Not Fight. Ill. by David Antram. Danbury, CT: Franklin Watts, 2004.
*Whelan, Gloria. Friend on Freedom River (Tales of Young Americans). Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2004.

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