Dear Ellen Bee by Mary E. Lyons
A Civil War Scrapbook of Two Union Spies

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Synopsis

"...I've put all the papers in order by date, so you'll have a story. Not just an ordinary tale about the Civil War which freed our people from slavery. Most folks think rifles and cannons put down the Southern rebellion. No, this scrapbook tells of Ellen Bee, two spies who won the war with softer weapons..."

In a fictional format that recalls the scrapbooks kept by women in the nineteenth century, Mary E. Lyons and Muriel M. Branch piece together the true story of Ellen Bee -- the code name used by two extraordinary women who courageously undermined the highest level of the Confederacy.

Elizabeth Van Lew -- Miss Bet -- was a wealthy white woman at the pinnacle of Richmond society, different from her socialite friends only in her deep abhorrence of slavery. Mary Elizabeth Bowser -- Liza -- was the daughter of two of the Van Lew family's freed slaves who had decided to stay on at the Church Hill mansion as paid and respected servants. As the strong-willed Liza matured, she grew to resent Miss Bet's well-intended "plans" for her life. The two constantly chafed as the Civil War flared around Richmond and Miss Bet was driven deeper into efforts to help the Union cause. Soon she found herself called upon to enlist the help of her beloved Liza when she saw an opportunity to plant a spy in the heart of the Confederate camp. And with Liza willing to risk the dangers of posing as a slave, so began a chain of communication that supplied the Union generals with vital information in their conduct of war.

 

About Mary E. Lyons

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Mary E. Lyons is the author of the acclaimed novels Letters from a Slave Girl and Sorrow's Kitchen: The Life and Folklore of Zora Neale Hurston, both ALA Best Books for Young Adults. In addition to the recent novel The Poison Place, other Atheneum books include Starting Home: The Story of Horace Pippin, Painter; Deep Blues: Bill Traylor, Self-Taught Artist; Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers; and Master of Mahogany, a Booklist Editor's Choice Book. Ms. Lyons lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband, Paul.
 
Published January 1, 2000 by Scholastic. 161 pages
Genres: Children's Books, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Told in a series of letters between young freed slave Liza Bowser and Miss Bet (Elizabeth L.

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