Thursday, October 8, 2009

Poetry: The Brothers' War: Civil War Voices in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis

1. Bibliographic data:
Lewis, J. Patrick. The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse. National Geographic Society, Washington D.C, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4263-0036-3.

2. Brief plot summary:
So many times in war, all we know are the statistics. We do not know the people, emotions, controversies that happened on the battlefield. J. Patrick Lewis tries to bring a voice to the Civil War by writing poems from the different sides’ point of view.

3. Critical analysis:
When dealing with any war, many authors are either in your face with the gruesome details or too vague for anyone to really feel the book. J. Patrick Lewis finds the perfect balance in The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse. With many different rhythms and lengths, Lewis brings a voice to a war that many people only see one side of. He then adds many different points of view and different battles so we get a feeling of how people and places felt, before and after the war. In the poem “The Raider”, Lewis writes it from John Brown’s point of view after he tried to take the armory in Harper’s Ferry. In the last stanza, he writes “In truth I am a white man/In sympathy a black./But for this rope, I might have seen/Us win our freedom back.” Each verse, each poem is haunted with the ghosts of the Civil War. In order to bring everything together, Lewis has paired each poem with a photograph taken during the Civil War. Students will be able to not only “feel” each poem, but they will also see firsthand the devastation that the Civil War caused.

4. Review excerpts
a. Publisher’s Weekly- “This heartrending collection of original poems paired with photographs by Civil War photographers makes real what statistics about war cannot-that the casualties of any war have human faces.”
b. Voya- “Teens will be captivated by the faces of these young soldiers-not so different from themselves-and teens who already have an interest in the Civil War will linger over each page.”
c. School Library Journal- “It is difficult to judge which is more haunting in this volume-Lewis's 11 poems or the historical photographs that illustrate them.”

5. Connections
a. Activities: This book would be great for a inter-curricular unit. While the Social Studies teacher is working on the Civil War, the Literature could have students analyze these poems. Then the English teacher could have students pick a battle and write a poem from one side’s point of view.
b. Related Books:
i. Ward, Geoffrey C. The Civil War: An Illustrated History. Knopf Doubleday
Publishing Group, New York, 1992.
ii. Murphy, Jim. The Boys’ War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil
War. Houghton MIfflin Harcourt, New York, 1993.

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