Numbering All the Bones

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2007

By Ann Rinaldi, Reviewed by Sajeda Ahmed

Numbering All the Bones book cover

Numbering All the Bones, by Ann Rinaldi;
Hyperion Books for Children: New York,
2002; $15.99

Only once in a very long time is a book published that is truly a work of art. It takes a great deal of work and time to have created such an extra special piece of writing. Only once in a while is a truly artistic and skillful book published, that readers of all ages can enjoy, now and for years to come. I’m proud to say that one such book exists. It is called Numbering All the Bones, by Ann Rinaldi.

This book has a few imaginary characters but is actually based on a true story It tells history through the eyes of a thirteen- year-old slave girl, named Eulinda, who struggles to reunite her family—or what is left of them. In the 1800s, slavery was a common thing. It was 1864—the year of the Civil War. The north against the south; blacks against whites. It was the year of Abraham Lincoln, and his Emancipation Proclamation.

I really liked this book because it was so convincingly written. It is based on things that happened in the past, but the way it was written and pieced together makes it seem unbelievably realistic. This book wasn’t just entertaining, though. I learned things that I’ve never really thought about before. Did you know that a woman named Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1912? Well, neither did I until reading this book.

My favorite character in the story was Clara Barton. Clara, a character in the story but also a real person, was a civil rights activist. I was amazed at how much she had accomplished, considering the fact that a woman back then had so few rights. She was even thought to be the most powerful woman in the world.

In 1864, Confederate soldiers created a prison in Georgia in which they held prisoners of war—their own fellow Americans. It was a horrible prison; Ann Rinaldi really emphasizes that. Thousands of prisoners were dying every day, and more kept coming to the prison to take their places. The dead were neglected—carelessly dumped into trenches, many corpses sharing one trench.

After the fall of the Confederacy, the prison was just shut down, for the war was over. Clara Barton, Eulinda, and a former and much luckier prisoner, got together and planned to properly re-bury the dead, one of whom was Eulinda’s last living family member.

The most interesting part of the story was when Eulinda’s past was uncovered. It told of how her mom had died, how her brother was sold away after being framed for stealing a ring, and the devastating truth that her one last surviving family member, Neddy, was being held captive in that dreadful prison.

I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity of reading this book. It gave me a hauntingly realistic glimpse of what the past was really like, in a way that years of history books and classes could never have accomplished.

Numbering All the Bones Sajeda Ahmed

Sajeda Ahmed, 13
Detroit, Michigan

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