Wow, I totally forgot to upload this yesterday. So you get a Book of the Week on a Friday, this time. Anyway, this week we’re doing a bit of a different genre, and going toward the lighter side of things after going really dark with The Real Story last week. This time, the Book of the Week is Rifles for Watie.
Rifles for Watie is a bit of a blast from the past for me. I first read this book in fourth grade, and it quickly became one of my favorites (along with The Three Musketeers, which will no doubt be featured here at some point in the future). I would classify it as YA historical fiction, though I don’t think that was really considered a genre when this book was written. Anyway, it follows Jefferson Davis Bussey, a young Kansas boy who joins the Union Army to fight against the Confederates in the American Civil War.
One thing that strikes me about this book is that even today, 17 years after I read it for the first time, it still has a ring of authenticity to it. There is a grittiness in the plot and text that seems rare for YA books—especially those written in the 1950s. Many of the characters were real people, and the key battles actually did happen during the Civil War.
The plot is surprisingly deep for a book with such a young audience. Issues of morality, loyalty, and even racial ethics are present. Rifles for Watie sees Jeff Bussey wind his way through large-scale politics, undercover missions, guerilla warfare, the horrors of a war in which tactics lag far behind the quality of the weaponry, and the requisite struggles that come with being a 16-year-old boy. It’s a quick read, both in size and in narrative pace, and a heck of a lot of fun.
I give Rifles for Watie 4 stars out of 5, mostly due to the emotional payoff, visceral battle scenes, and deftly handled moods. Go check it out!