Booklist - Crossing the Deadline
Desperate to help support his mother and escape his cruel uncle, Stephen, 13, secretly enlists in the Civil War in 1863, following in the footsteps of his brother, Robert, killed fighting for the Union. Although Stephen is too young to be a soldier, he is not too young to use his skills as a bugler. After suffering defeat in a skirmish, Stephen and other soldiers are sent to a prison near Selma, Alabama. Stephen’s first-person account vividly describes the horrific conditions they endured, but the trials he faces are only beginning: he is eventually sent home aboard the doomed steamship Sultana. This is fiction, but Stephen is based on a real person, and many details and events are based on diary and journal accounts. Readers unfamiliar with the Sultana disaster may be shocked to know more people died here than in the sinking of the Titanic. The realistic situations and feelings, viewed through the eyes of a young bugler, will appeal to readers who like war stories.