Nine-year-old Jethro Creighton has always been a little sheltered. His mother tends to spoil him. Not so much because he is the youngest of her twelve children, but because he survived the illness that took so many other children in 1852, including three of her own. That is soon to change, however. With talk of civil war, the entire Creighton family knows that their peaceful lives will soon be disrupted. For Jethro, that will mean growing up sooner rather than later.
All the Creighton family members are staunch abolitionists. They do not, however, share the same political views. Jethro’s brothers enlist in the Union Army, except Jethro’s favorite, Bill. He wants to find a way to eliminate slavery without having to submit to what many Southerners perceive as the economic tyranny of the North. Jethro’s father Matt quickly discovers that many Union sympathizers have little tolerance for a family of divided loyalties, even one that has sacrificed so many of its own to the cause. Matt’s health fails, and before long Jethro finds he needs to take on the lion’s share of the farm work. Jethro and his sister Jenny pour over the newspapers and letters from the war front for news, all the time trying to keep the homestead together.
This award winning book about the American Civil War presents both the physical and emotional hardships this conflict caused. Jethro’s courage in the face of danger, sorrow and demanding work demonstrates the difficulties that civilians endure during wartime. Irene Hunt’s story makes accessible to young readers the complexity of relationships. Although he never wavers in his loyalty to his country or in his moral convictions, Jethro’s love for Bill remains.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher living in Ridgewood, NJ.