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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the seventh book in the “I Survived” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Eleven-year-old Thomas and his little sister, Birdie, are slaves on a farm in Virginia. They watched as their older cousin, Clem, was sent do hard labor in Mississippi. When the same slave traders arrive for Thomas, he and Birdie make a run for it. After running and hiding all night, the kids see two Confederate soldiers beating a Union soldier. The kids cause a distraction so the Union soldier can get away. Once the Confederate soldiers are gone, the Union soldier, Henry, takes the kids back to camp with him.

Thomas and Birdie enjoy living with the kind Union soldiers in their camp. Henry tells Thomas about a horrible battle they fought in Fredericksburg recently. More than 10,000 men were killed or injured, and the Union army was forced to retreat. They will soon fight a battle at Gettysburg, Henry says. It’s a battle they must win.

On the march to Gettysburg, Birdie and Thomas are captured by men who want to return them to their master for a reward. Henry and other soldiers rescue them. As the Union army approaches Gettysburg, the men hear the sounds of battle. The Union soldiers chant Fredericksburg! to remind themselves why this victory is so important. Then they join in the combat.

As Thomas delivers an ammunition wagon, he hears explosions and gunfire headed his way. Shards of metal slice into his forehead and thigh. As he tries to get away, he’s hit in the chest with a bullet and passes out. He wakes up to find Clem and Birdie sitting beside his hospital bed.

Before the battle, Henry made Thomas and Birdie promise to go home with him after the war. Henry doesn’t survive the war, but Henry’s sweetheart and parents take the kids in nonetheless. Henry had written them many letters about Thomas and Birdie, so they take good care of the children. They teach them how to read and write, and they try to help them forget the horrors they witnessed at Gettysburg.

Christian Beliefs

When Thomas wakes up after being injured, he wonders if he might be in heaven.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Thomas and Birdie’s mother died a few years earlier. Seventeen-year-old cousin Clem, who had been a father figure to the kids, was sold to a plantation in Mississippi. Union soldier Henry and his comrades are kind and protect the children. Henry’s family happily adopts Thomas and Birdie after the war.


The Lord’s name is used in vain a few times. The man who owned Thomas and his family often beat them with a whip. Thomas remembers how painful it felt. He also remembers watching the man crack a whip over Clem’s back and seeing Clem’s blood-soaked shirt. Clem was unable to walk for two weeks afterward.

Thomas is badly injured in battle when nails and razor-sharp strips of metal fly toward him. He receives bloody gashes on his forehead and leg, and a bullet hits him in the chest.

Southern soldiers smash a pistol into a Union soldier’s face, making a sickening cracking sound and giving him a bloody nose. They also kick the fallen soldier. The book makes other references to the bloody, shattered bodies of soldiers, alive and dead. Thomas sees a man shot in the forehead and watches blood pour from the bullet hole.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Slavery: Slavery is still accepted by many, while others are trying to abolish the practice. Many slaves are whipped and worked nearly to death.

The author includes historical information about the Civil War in the back of the book. The text of the Gettysburg Address also appears, as does a list of books for further reading.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 to 12


Lauren Tarshis






Record Label



Scholastic Inc.


On Video

Year Published



Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award, 2014


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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