Monday, July 01, 2013
The story is so big and complex that it doesn't fit well into 96 pages. Vansant does a competent job of explaining the preparations before the battle, the three days of the battle and the aftermath, including the full text of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address which dedicated the Union cemetery. He's obviously used reference photographs, and his artwork makes the famous people recognizable, if a bit stiff. He approaches the story chronologically, and one can get an idea of how the battle unfolded, but the book remains rather dry. Given his young adult audience, Vansant draws a minimum of bloodshed. When he writes, "Down below, General Hood's left arm was shattered by a shell burst," he draws Hood and his horse blinded and pushed to one side by the explosion and only colors them with a golden wash. I do not think most readers would actually want any more graphic detail than that, but Vansant's decision does sap some of the essence out of the story. His need to jump from one small segment of the battle to the next, unavoidable as it may be, has the same effect.
The story appears to be factually correct, although some items such as drawing Confederate General Lewis Armistead advancing with his hat speared on his sword aren't explained. Perhaps he thought sharpshooters would aim for his hat? A final round of proof-reading would have avoided mistakes such as "Choked with emotion because he did not want to make this attack, Longstreet nearly nodded." (p. 81) Presumably 'merely' is meant, not 'nearly' since a near nod is not much of a military command.
In conclusion, this book is most likely to appeal to a boy who already has an interest in the Civil War or military history, and is a perfectly reasonable starting place for someone looking at the vast amount of Gettysburg literature.
Still coming next - Tommysaurus Rex.