Death on the River by John Wilson

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Set during the last year of the American Civil War, this grim portrayal of the brutality of war through the eyes of a young soldier, Jake Clay as he joins the Union Army in the spring of 1864, determined to make his parents proud. His dreams of glory vanish, however, when he is wounded and taken prisoner in his first battle at Cold Harbor, Virginia, and confined to the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, where 30,000 soldiers face violence, disease and starvation. Frightened and disillusioned, Jake takes up with Billy Sharp, an unscrupulous opportunist who shows him how to survive, no matter what the cost. By the war's end Jake's sleep is haunted by the ghosts of those who have died so he could live. When the camp is liberated, Jake and Billy head north on the Mississippi riverboat Sultana, overcrowded far beyond its capacity. Unknown to Jake, the fateful journey up river will come closer to killing him than Andersonville did, but it will also provide him with his one chance at redemption.

About John Wilson

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John Wilson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is the author of numerous books for young people. He has written other Stories of Canada titles, including Righting Wrongs and Discovering the Arctic, both of which were shortlisted for the Norma Fleck Award for children's non-fiction. He lives in Lantzville, British Columbia.
Published October 1, 2009 by Orca Book Publishers. 208 pages
Genres: War, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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A million people were killed in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942, one of the worst battles in history, and the intertwined stories of three people, each told in third person, offer a human-scale account of the cataclysm.

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Kirkus Reviews

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This riveting look at the Civil War’s horrifying Andersonville prison through the eyes of an 18-year-old inmate has the power to shock and to compel young readers’ interest while uncovering exciting history for them.

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The Globe and Mail

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The prison camp is repeatedly called Hell long after its fiendishness is obvious, and though the book is good material for a Grade 6 or 7 class, I suspect a teen reader would pick up on even a short sentence mentioning the camp's death rate or a riverboat's exact length as a little too encycloped...

Nov 19 2009 | Read Full Review of Death on the River

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