When Drummer Boy was 2, I wanted to supplement his library with history picture books. While on one of my trips to a battlefield (though I don’t remember which one), I picked up a picture book about the Civil War that had everything I was looking for: beautiful illustrations, great Civil War topics and a way for me to teach him the alphabet.
The topics addressed in B is for Battle Cry are very broad—Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis are discussed alongside disease, the role of quartermasters and prisons for captured soldiers—and add a level of depth and context that will make this interesting for older readers and parents as well as children just learning their alphabet.
For me, the meter of the verses was a little bit difficult to navigate. It never seemed to quite roll of the tongue while I was reading it aloud. I believe the reason for this is the verses were written to be sung to the tune of Stephen Foster’s Hard Times Come Again No More. Don’t be worried if you, like me, were not immediately familiar with this incredibly popular song from the mid-nineteenth century. To help you out, the author, Patricia Bauer, sings her verses to the accompaniment of her acoustic guitar in a free download available on her illustrator husband’s website.
The four line alphabet verses are supplemented by sidebars that give older readers and parents more explanation of the topics addressed. Though “T is for Trains,” its side bar discusses the new and emerging technology like telegraphs, rifle muskets and the Gatlin gun, that leads many historians to consider the Civil War the first modern war. And while “Y is for Yankee” Johnny Reb is mentioned as the counterpoint to Billy Yank and the author describes the families who were torn apart by divided loyalties.
Overall, this is a great introduction to the Civil War for young readers and little ones who like to be read to. For the full experience, try singing the verses and see how it transforms story time.
Buy your own copy of B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet.
Toni is a wife, mom and history buff who loves bringing the Civil War to life for family members of all ages.