Red Moon at Sharpsburg, by Rosemary Wells;
Viking Children’s Books: New York, 2007;
When I first glanced at the cover of Red Moon at Sharpsburg, by Rosemary Wells, the rich hues and hypnotic detail drew me in. A fire bursts out of the sunset as a young girl and two men look on, entranced. This fire burns deep inside India Moody, a fourteen-year-old girl caught up in the Civil War behind Rebel lines.
In a letter from a friend, India learns of a college in Ohio that accepts women. The story goes on to tell of India’s survival in a male-dominated world, where women traditionally stay at home, cooking, cleaning, and caring for children, and certainly not attending college. Many activities that I participate in, such as cross-country, are very dominated by males, so I share the struggles that India has as well. Reading about life in this time period makes me extremely glad that I live in a world that accepts women as equals.
Emory Trimble, the son of India’s godparents, takes her in as a student, where she is supposed to learn feminine wiles and scripture. Instead, India is swept into Emory’s studies, becoming interested in what her mother calls “men’s science”: chemistry. Fueled by her passion, India becomes Emory’s assistant and spends more time in his laboratory than she does at home. India and Emory have plans to publish a paper on popular European studies—medicine, bacteria, and disease. India transcribes Emory’s letters and they prepare for a breakthrough in science that will have lasting impact and save millions of lives. India believes in the Rebel cause, yet she is primarily concerned with curing victims through preventative medicine. Because I am a believer in pacifism, I see myself working as India did, doing anything possible to help those affected by war, no matter which side they are on. I am glad that India had science on her side.
I have a lot in common with India Moody and Emory Trimble. India feels torn when she travels to see her father on the battlefield at Sharpsburg: timidity at what new experiences she may encounter, alongside courage and curiosity about what lies ahead. When I departed from my elementary school, I also felt like I was being torn in two. Part of me wanted to remain where I had been and been loved, but another part of me wanted to move on and see the great opportunities that were ahead of me. Emory decides to become an army medic so that he will be treated with respect. I try to gain respect by being courteous and by treating others kindly. I also try to gain respect while leading by example—doing well in school, having a role in a play, and participating in a chorus. At home, India uses her knowledge from Emory for the wounded, but she feels insecure without him by her side. I have often felt that insecurity when I am asked to do something without a strong companion.
Throughout the book, India tests her strength, perseverance, and allegiance as stability collapses, leaving her with only a few remnants of her old life. Red Moon at Sharpsburg is a story that will be cherished by readers of all ages. It is the telling of a life spun out of balance, a true test of loyalty, and a girl who witnessed the gruesome tragedies of the Civil War on the other side of the history books.