Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review Dear America: A Light in the Storm by Karen Hesse

Dear America: A Light in the Storm
A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin
Author: Karen Hesse
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. (1999)
Hardcover, 174 pages
Historical Fiction, Ages 9-12
ISBN-10: 0590567330
ISBN-13: 978-0590567336

Part of the popular Dear America series, A Light in the Storm chronicles a year in the life of a 16-year-old girl at the start of the Civil War.

Amelia Martin begins her diary in the final days of 1860. Amelia is the daughter of a lighthouse keeper on Fenwick Island, Delaware. The reader experiences the events that led to the Civil War through Amelia's eyes. She is very distressed when South Carolina secedes from the Union and wonders what that will mean for President-Elect Abraham Lincoln.

The conflict also has a much more personal effect on Amelia and her family. Amelia's parents are bitterly divided over the issue of slavery, which creates a very tense home life. Her mother is also prone to depression and Amelia struggles to understand her mother's sudden mood changes.

As war becomes an inevitability, Amelia's friend Daniel enlists in the Union army. Amelia worries for his safety and anxiously anticipates his letters from the front. The other lighthouse keeper at Fenwick Island also enlists, and a new keeper with a large family takes his place. Their joyful home life is a stark contrast to the tension present in Amelia's family.

Eventually, writing in her diary during the nightly watch is one of the few things that brings Amelia peace. She worries about the uncertain future of the country as well as the toll the conflict will take on her parents' marriage:

"I feel as if I am the Light in my family. I must keep my hope burning, so that Father and Mother, even in the darkness that seems to engulf them, might find their way back."
Amelia's diary, though fictional, is very moving. A Light in the Storm provides a unique look at life in Delaware during the early days of the Civil War. Delaware permitted slavery but never joined the Confederacy. Amelia's voice is compelling and young people will be able to relate to her hopes and fears. The book includes an interesting and informative appendix of historical information related to the story.

Rating: 9/10


  1. Oh wow, I should pick that up for my Amelia, it sounds like a book she'd love! She didn't like the one "Dear America" book she read, and never returned to the series, which is unfortunate.

  2. Laura, I always loved getting books where the main character and I had the same name, especially since Ruth was so uncommon for young girls. I hope Amelia enjoys this one, it was a treat to read.

  3. I really liked this book, I just read it for a project.

  4. Same here, I read this book for a project. I thought it would be boring at first but it turned out that I really enjoyed it.

  5. I'm still reading it but so far I really love it