Jack Calhoun is a typical 10-year-old boy who lives in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, during the early 1860s. Baseball is Jack’s passion. Jack and his friends simply played casual ‘townball’ until a Confederate solider explained the official rules of baseball. Jack’s days are not always filled with fun baseball games. The Civil War has begun and Jack faces bullies on a daily basis from ‘Scrat the Rat’ and his gang. Jack’s father is a Quaker who doesn’t believe that war is the right choice, so he goes away into the mountains. Before Pa leaves he gives Jack a homemade hog skin baseball that Jack treasures and always keeps with him. Now Jack must be strong with his Ma and younger siblings on the farm. While Pa is away Jack deals with the Home Guard who visit each house to demand all capable men fight against the Yankees and confrontations with his bullies. Jack even plans a humorous revenge on the bullies. Finally, Pa returns when the Exemption Act is passed which allows individuals with religious beliefs against fighting to avoid being in service. Jack’s life is somewhat back to normal with his Pa back and fewer bully situations. Baseball is always in Jack’s heart through all his hardships.
I thought Jack Calhoun and the Perfect Baseball was wholesome, humorous at times, and educational without being boring. Children won’t realize that they’re actually learning about the daily life during the Civil War, instead they’ll gain pleasure as they read about baseball and typical bully pranks. This book can be used to spark children’s interest while teaching about the Civil War.
by Laurie Halse Anderson
illustrated by Matt Faulkner
Ages 8 & up, 40 pages
Did you know that celebrating Thanksgiving almost didn’t happen? This book is about Sarah Hale who was a very determined woman who promoted Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She wrote numerous letters to three presidents before President Lincoln finally declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. The book highlights the Civil War, slavery, and the lifestyle during the nineteenth century. I suggest this book for older ages who understand historic events, but many benefit from the information. The back of the book includes additional information about the time period, Sarah Hale, and Thanksgiving traditions.
Background Information about Sarah Hale:
Sarah was editor for The Ladies’ Magazine, wrote the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and additional children’s stories, raised five children, made hats for profit when her husband died, and never hesitated to write about issues that concerned her. As editor, a few famous authors she published were Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. She never considered herself a woman’s rights advocate, but she did believe in education for women and safe working conditions. She was against slavery.
Additional Thanksgiving Facts:– In 1939, the National Retail Dry Goods Association wanted Thanksgiving to be moved to the third Thursday to lengthen holiday shopping. It was a disaster, since some individuals celebrated both days. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving to always be on the fourth Thursday. -Sarah Hale chose the date based upon President George Washington who declared the last Thursday in November to be a “Day of Thanksgiving and prayer”. – The first football game played on Thanksgiving occurred in the 1870s. -In 1924, the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade took place by store employees. (Another post will feature this event.)