HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Discoveries in the Shriver Family Attic: How a Woman and Her Children Dealt with the Battle of Gettysburg
Author and Illustrator: Kajsa C. Cook
Publisher: White Mane Kids, 2009
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Cook, Kajsa C. Discoveries in the Shriver Family Attic: How a Woman and Her Children Dealt with the Battle of Gettysburg (published in 2009 by White Mane Kids, a division of White Mane Publishing Company Inc., P. O. Box 708, Shippensburg, PA 17257). It is the spring of 1867. Eleven-year-old Sarah Louise (Sadie) Shriver and her nine-year-old sister Mary Margaret (Mollie) live in Gettysburg, PA, with their mother Henrietta (Hettie), step-father Daniel F. Pittenturf, and new baby sister Lillie. In 1860 their father, George W. Shriver, had built a new house on Baltimore St. in Gettysburg and intended to open a saloon in the basement. However, the Civil War began, and George went off to fight the Rebs. As the famous Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, loomed, Hettie sought to escape the oncoming Confederate soldiers who occupied the city and took Sadie and Mollie out of town to her parents’ farm. Interestingly enough, the farm was near Little Round Top and Devil’s Den where some of the fiercest fighting ended up taking place.
After a visit home in late 1863, George returned to the war, was captured while fighting in Virginia, and was taken to Andersonville Prison in Georgia where he died on Aug. 25, 1864. This historical fiction book for young people uses visits by Sadie and Mollie with their new neighbors and friends, Jason and Amy, to look for things in the attic of their former home, the reading of old letters, and flashbacks to tell all about the battle of Gettysburg and George Shriver’s death. Author Kajsa C. Cook bases her plot on extensive research including the book At Gettysburg, Or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle, which is a diary written by Tillie Pierce, another neighbor and friend of the Shrivers, who also appears in the book with her family. Cook says, “The story is based on facts, and all characters are based on real people who actually lived in Gettysburg with the exception of Jason and Amy, who are fictional characters.”
Last year, we visited Gettysburg. One of the places on our itinerary was the Shriver House Museum. Through the 1900s, the house that George Shriver built deteriorated and was in danger of being condemned. However, in 1996, a restoration project was begun, and the house is now a museum open to the public. The author has served there as a tour guide. You can still go up to the garret in which the Confederates had a sharpshooters’ nest, and view the bloodstains where at least two soldiers were actually killed. I always like to see if I can pick up some children’s books related to the sites that we visit, and the Museum was selling copies of this book. Some parents might want to know that a few instances of pipe smoking are mentioned, and the terms “Lord knows,” “O my God,” and “Golly” are each used once as interjections. In addition to the interesting story, there are sections in the back with photographs and educational resources which include a Shriver family history, Gettysburg campaign timeline, and questions for research and discussion. It would make a great accompaniment to a study of the Civil War.