Ike Button has his heart set on joining the Union Army. What does it matter that he is only eleven? His brothers, father, uncles and cousins are all going, and at the very least they will need a drummer. Ike loves his country as much as they do, and besides, who wants to get stuck home with the women? Ike’s parents have other ideas, however, and before he knows it the steamer carrying the newly enlisted Iowa troops has sailed.
Ike feels smothered by femininity: a mother who is worried sick about her husband and sons; well-meaning aunts who indulge his appetite but still do not understand; little sisters wanting attention. The only person whose company he can tolerate is his trusted friend Albirdie, daughter of the abolitionist Reverend Woolley. She comes to him for advice, but Ike is initially too distracted by his own agenda to listen to her. Then a chance meeting with a run-away slave brings him back to reality, and Ike learns that not all the battles of war are fought on the field.
Few modern authors capture the heart of the pre-adolescent as well as Anne Ylvisaker. As in her first two books about the Buttons, Ylvisaker presents readers with a lovable and realistic protagonist, untainted by cynicism, who loves his family, respects and trusts his elders and yet still struggles toward adulthood. In this prequel, young “Granddaddy Ike” knows that the men in his family should be his role models. At the same time, he gradually realizes that his courage and problem-solving skills are needed on the home front.
Jennifer Minicus is a full-time wife and mother currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.