Publisher's Note:  

A trio of seventh graders become one another's first friends as they discover the secrets of a Civil War soldier in this middle grade novel for fans of Gordon Korman and Gary Schmidt

Twelve-year-old Oliver Prichard is obsessed with the Civil War. He knows everything about it: the battles, the generals, every movement of the Union and Confederate Armies. So when the last assignment of seventh-grade history is a project on the Civil War, Oliver is over the moon--until he's partnered with Ella Berry, the slacker girl with the messy hair who does nothing but stare out the window. And when Oliver finds out they have to research a random soldier named Private Raymond Stone who didn't even fight in any battles before dying of some boring disease, Oliver knows he's doomed. 

But Ella turns out to be very different from what Oliver expected. As the partners film their documentary about Private Stone--with Oliver's friend Kevin signing on as their head writing consultant--Oliver discovers that sometimes the most interesting things are hiding in uninteresting places. Even Private Stone is better than expected: There's a mystery buried in his past, and Oliver knows he can figure it out.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Dial Books for Young Readers

The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody

by Matthew Landis

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Overall Review:  

History, crushes, drama - this book has it all. A civil war aficionado and a girl who is about to flunk out of the 7th grade make an unlikely pair. They must navigate social norms, family dynamics, differing opinions, and the thought of 'are they more than just friends' to accomplish a perfect grade. Throw in a imaginative classmate as a writer for their documentary and this trio have what it takes to solve mysteries from the civil war.

This book makes the civil war and researching historical documents sound like an adventure. Their teacher is the teacher we all wish we had in middle school - engaging, funny, and supportive. This is a fun read that either gender would enjoy. The balance between the history and real-life ratio was perfect.

The characters are real. The storyline is appealing. This a great pick to get a kid interested in history, the process of research, and group projects.

Review of an Advance Reading Copy

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  4 religious exclamations.

Violence/Gore:  Soldier died of dysentery; minor imagines a story where there is a nuclear war with a tournament to fight to the death and the winner blows up a country; the story continues with the government threatening to either kill someone's family or nuke his girlfriend; declaring someone got shot - jokingly; 6 pages of a teacher describing and acting out the process of a leg amputation during the civil war including: covered in fake blood, instruments covered in fake blood, shot in leg - shattered shin, risk of infection, cutting off blood to location of wound, digging into knee to remove debris, sawing on wood - pretending it was bone, talking about cutting flap of skin, survival rate, throw leg on pile of legs under table, file bone, sew skin over bone; injured shoulder, historical mention of massacre where over 200 soldiers were killed; mention of Ku Klux Klan terrorizing and killing African Americans; soldier dies; minor pretend dies in reenactment; blood bath was mentioned; truth like a bayonet in his chest; potential for death due to war and disease.

Sex/Nudity:  Description of relationships including making out; 3 hugs; 2 holding hands; references to making out/kissing; head on shoulder; flirting.

Mature Subject Matter:  

War, death, amputation, diseases.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  


Reviewed By Lacey
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