Cover image for No man's land : a young soldier's story
No man's land : a young soldier's story
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Blue Sky Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
168 pages ; 22 cm
Because he had been unable to fight off the gator which injured his father, fourteen-year-old Thrasher joins the Confederate Army hoping to prove his manhood.
Reading Level:
700 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.6 4.0 32531.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 4.8 6 Quiz: 19363 Guided reading level: NR.
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The gator floated soundlessly to the surface, with barely a ripple, and its filmy lids transformed into hard, gleaming black eyes.

Pap's eyes gleamed hard and black as the gator's. With his spear, he pierced the gator's side where the tough armor turned to soft belly. The gator hissed and slapped its head. Its tail lashed. Its jaw snapped, and it bellowed.

Thrasher pulled his knife from its sheath and raised it over his head. But before the knife could fall, another roar sounded from the rushes. Out charged a female gator. The she-gator hissed, and interest flickered in Pap's eyes, a sort of amusement that now they'd have two gators to reckon with.

Thrasher gripped his knife tighter, ready to kill the gator, to hack through its spine, to be a man, but his feet wouldn't move. He stood transfixed, his feet planted as if mired in mud.

Then the she-gator rammed Pap, pushing him into the water.

Author Notes

A former 8th-grade English teacher, Susan Campbell Bartoletti writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages. Black Potatoes is the winner of the ALA Sibert Award for Best Information book, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Distinguished Nonfiction, and the SCBWI Golden Kite Nonfiction award. She lives with her family in Moscow, PA.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-9. At 14, Thrasher Magee lies about his age and joins the Okefenokee Rifles to fight in the Confederate Army in 1861. For many young soldiers, like Thrasher's friend Baylor, war is a grand adventure, but Thrasher is driven by his need to prove his manhood to his father and himself. There is far less battlefield slaughter than in Gary Paulsen's Soldier's Heart (Booklist's 1998 Top of the List for Youth Fiction); the focus here is on the waiting, the boredom, and the bonds and bickering between the individual soldiers (one of whom turns out to be a girl). In a moving chapter, they arrive too late for a battle; their gruesome job is to bury the dead, and they are surprised by their horror and sorrow. Their fury at the Yankees is transformed when they meet individual enemy soldiers sneaking across the lines to bury their dead: the two sides talk, tease, and play cards. By the time they do fight, they are far less eager, though the screaming battle in which Thrasher loses an arm is the climax of the story. If Thrasher is sometimes too articulate about his fight for manhood, his final return home to his father's embrace is a melancholy closing that rings true. As in her great nonfiction photo-essay Growing Up in Coal Country (1996), Bartoletti grounds her story in careful historical research, and in an afterword she talks about her union of fact and imagination. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Men go to war to vanquish enemies. Boys go to war to vanquish childhood. This piercing novel conveys both concepts as it explores the Civil War through the eager eyes of a 14-year-old Georgia boy, Thrasher McGee. The only way Thrasher can prove to his father that he's tough enough to fight 'gatorsÄand anything elseÄis to run away and sign up with the Confederate Okefinokee Rifles. At first, boredom threatens to bog down the company's morale; they're disappointed when they're too late for the big battle at Port Republic, Va. Then, Thrasher is astounded when he and the other young soldiers meet some Yankees in the woods who want to exchange coffee and play baseball between the fighting. But soon enough the war finds them: "Thousands of feet tramped. Thousands of tin cups clinked against thousands of cartridge belts. Ahead, the long columns of men wound as far as Thrasher could see.... Everywhere he looked he saw gray: gray morning mist, gray dust, gray men." Bartoletti (Growing Up in Coal Country) compellingly and carefully crafts her characters, especially the boys-turned-soldiers Thrasher, Baylor Frable and Tim LaFaye, building up their na‹ve camaraderie right to the moment they enter the terrible adult conflict. She spins a history as fresh as the day it happened, told through the eyes of a boy who is too willing to claim adult responsibilities, far too soon. Ages 10-14. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8Thrasher, 14, is the oldest child in a large, poor family living in rural Georgia during the Civil War. When he is humiliated by his lack of courage during an alligator attack on his father, he decides to join the Confederate army to prove his mettle. Thrasher, like many young soldiers, enters the fighting looking for adventure and glory and has no concept of the political issues or grim realities. The dialect is genuine and the details of time and place are accurate. However, not all of war is action and excitement, and the story is often slow. There are interesting moments: a baseball game between some weary grays and blues who meet while caring for their dead; Thrashers discovery that one of his comrades is a young woman; the battle in which he finally faces his fear (and loses an arm); his return home to the family hes been missing and the father hes been dreading. But ethical realizations are painted thickly on a thin plot (When you were filling graves, the only difference between [the soldiers] was the color of their shirts beneath the blood). There are many Civil War stories that read more fluently, from Harold Keiths Rifles for Watie (HarperCollins, 1987) to novels by Carolyn Reeder and G. Clifton Wisler.Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.