(D) Ages 10-12, (E) Ages 12-15, Book Reviews, Boys, Nonfiction
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Guts & Glory: The American Civil War by Ben Thompson

Guts & Glory: The American Civil War by Ben Thompson. Little, Brown, 2014. 317 pages, including index.guts&glory

Reading Level: Middle Grades,  ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-14 (especially boys)

Bottom Line: The Guts & Glory overview of the Civil War is as readable and as “not boring” as promised, though the casual slangy style may be overdone.

“100% not boring” is how the Guts & Glory history series is billed (next up: The Vikings), and the author does his best to deliver. The scope is admirable: all the major engagements, plus lesser-known episodes like the “great locomotive chase,” as well as basic stats and fun facts about lady spies and battlefield surgical practice. Also sidebars about minor players—no less interesting than the major ones—and related issues. All this information is organized well, with an eye to getting the big picture across as well as the interesting details. The tone is conversational to a fault, for instance:

Seeing as how the Union’s semi-brilliant plan of “Hey dudes, let’s just charge straight at them, frontal assault style and see what happens” didn’t work out quite as well as they were hoping, the North decided, forget that, let’s try something way more complicated instead.

The author, self-described as “a man who has the South in his veins but also loves the US of A with all his heart,” gives us a fairly even-handed treatment of the issues and doesn’t beat up on the CSA too much. There were admirable characters on both sides, and plenty not-so-admirable. This book gives a reasonably comprehensive view of the conflict, though slightly more exemplary prose would have been welcome. The line-drawing illustrations are not great but okay.

Cautions: Language (two instances of quoted mild profanity)

Overall Rating: (3.5 out of 5)

  • Worldview Rating: 3.5
  • Artistic Rating: 3

Categories: Nonfiction, American History, Middle Grades,
Boys, Reluctant Readers
Cover image from Amazon

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