Bull Run by Paul Fleischman is our latest completed history read-aloud. I purchased it a few months back at a used bookstore I love in Chattanooga, and I started reading it aloud on a whim (which is both a strength and a weakness of mine, depending upon which book we’re discussing 😉 ). In this case perhaps it was a weakness, not because this is an unworthy book, but because I didn’t do my homework to decide whether or not it would make a good read-aloud. It turns out this book is a series of sixty short chapters which are written from the perspectives of sixteen different characters, from General Irvin McDowell (the only non-fictitious character) to a stagecoach driver to a black man enlisted in the federal army as a white man to a slave girl to a doctor. All of their various experiences converge upon one place: Manassas, Virginia, at the Battle of Bull Run. We had a very difficult time remembering the identities of the many characters. The girls made a list of the characters, identifying them as either northern or southern, but even that wasn’t enough to really remember anything about them. The writing in this story is fabulous–truly. It’s just not a good book to read aloud. I could see this as a great book to use in a classroom–as a reader’s theater or something like that. I wish I had just handed it off to Lulu to read on her own. (I find it nearly impossibly to abandon a read-aloud once I start it, which is another weakness of mine.) I’d say it’s just about right as an independent read for a sixth grader. (Scholastic, 1993)
Side note: Did you know Paul Fleischman is Sid Fleischman’s son, and they’re both Newbery award winning authors? I didn’t, either. Wow. Paul Fleischman is also the author of a favorite picture book of mine, The Animal Hedge.