The Winter of Red Snow
by Kristiana Gregory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Winter of Red Snow (Valley Forge) / 0-590-22653-3
Like almost all of the Dear America books, there's a wealth of fascinating history here, from the big picture look at the American army during the winter of 1777 to the day-to-day life details, like cleaning a chimney by lowering a flapping rooster down it! As is typical for the Dear America books, the author presents a balanced view of a complicated situation: although the narrator and her family are avidly patriotic, they do not fail to notice that the wintering army isn't above robbing them near-blind to feed and clothe the soldiers.
Nor does our little 11-year-old narrator much care for the harsh treatment of one of the black freedmen in the army - she is angered that the white soldiers will not treat the black soldiers with the respect and honor they deserve. The narrator's older sister also provides a useful look at the practice of "Bounty Shirts" - the pretty girl sews her name into a shirt for a soldier, hoping to snag a handsome husband. Initially disappointed that her gift goes to an 'ugly' soldier, she later realizes that the soldier was kind, polite, and honest and decides that she values those qualities more than looks or bearing.
Though violence is kept to a relative minimum (no battles are pitched in the narrator's front yard), there are quite a few hangings and whippings witnessed by the narrator. There are also numerous visits to the army hospital, where the reader is shown several amputations, as well as a trough full of amputated hands and feet. Small children may be disturbed by the imagery of soldiers walking barefoot through the snow, leaving bloody footprints behind them. It is also worth noting that several small children die in a skating accident on a thawing pond. Oddly, the "George Washington praying" legend is repeated here, even though almost no historians give it any credence. I don't know why the author chose to include it, but there you are.
~ Ana Mardoll
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