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Review: Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel

One of the pivotal battles of the Civil war was the battle of Gettysburg.  C.M. Butzer attempts at making the battle and Lincoln’s speech come alive for upper elementary school readers.   While the actual battle itself only makes a small appearance, the events surrounding it and the explanation of why this was such an important battle are explained well in this book.

Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel
Butzer, C.M.
Rating 9-14
Bown Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-06-1561757
80 pp., $9.99

The book opens with a cast of characters, small sketches of names and faces that are pivotal to the battle. Some will be familiar to young readers, like Lincoln, while the others are more obscure, like Lincoln’s friend and valet William H. Johnson.  Still it is a point of reference for readers as they read through this slim comic. 
I was taken with the way the artwork gave a strong sense of the destruction and horror without being gratuitously explicit. In one two-page spread three panels show birds flying around, a soldier pointing up at them, and finally, we see the full scene, and surmise that the soldier is actually dead.  Butzer also uses only a few colors, mainly blues, grays, blacks and white.  (Which is a fitting choice, given the significance of blue and gray for the civil war.)  And while I am a fan of limited color, I also thought it lent a haunting effect.
Finally, the book ends with Lincoln’s speech.  I think this is where I might pick at the book, because to me, Lincoln just doesn’t look like Lincoln.  That said, the author/illustrator did a wonderful job depicting the speech in graphic form, breaking up the words in a perfect way.
Those who appreciate history will enjoy this read. Students needing background information can use this book well.  Since Butzer really puts it in perspective and includes page notes at the end of the book. Finally, teachers looking to engage their students would do well to add this to their classroom collection and incorporate it into their lessons.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Harper Collins Publisher.

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 3 and regularly reviews for SLJ, LMC. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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