Genre: children’s historical fiction
Length: 208 pages
Setting: Brooklyn, 1862
Interest: It’s the first book we’re reading for our American History Club while we focus on the Civil War.
Summary: Tom is a young boy, living in Brooklyn, NY during the Civil War. His fathers died fighting in the war, and he has to go to work in order to support his family. He finds a job working in the Brooklyn Naval Yards on the Monitor, the first iron-clad ship that’s being built to fight the Confederate-built Merrimac. No-one believes it will float, let alone fight. Tom ends up as a runner for Captain Ericsson, who has designed the ship and is overseeing its construction, so he’s able to follow all the details of the construction. He gets into trouble when a Copperhead (a Confederate spy) targets him for details on the ship. Instead of spilling secrets, Tom signs up on the crew of the Monitor and helps in the fight against the Merrimac.
Final thoughts: An excellent book. It’s written in a very conversational tone that puts you right in the main character’s shoes. Actual illustrations and photographs from that time period helped put me in the time period. In fact, there were several times I wondered if it was a nonfiction story because of all the detail. (Based on the author’s note, Tom is a fictionalized amalgamation of several people who were involved in the project.) There’s plenty of tension (will the ship actually sail? How will Tom avoid the Copperheads?) and action as the Monitor fights the Merrimac, but it is all child-appropriate. I highly recommend the story for any kid who’s interested in the Civil War or naval battles.
Title comes from: The Monitor was one of the first iron-clad ships (along with the Merrimac) and when the two ships battled, the cannons striking each other were like thunder.
Reading challenges fulfilled: 32/100 in my 100 Book Challenge, and an A in my Alphabet Soup Author Challenge
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