Cover image for Letters from Vinnie
Letters from Vinnie
Sappey, Maureen Stack, 1952-
Publication Information:
Asheville, NC : Front Street, 1999.
Physical Description:
248 pages ; 24 cm
A fictionalized account of the Washington, D.C., Civil War years experienced by Vinnie Ream the sculptress, best known for the statue of Abraham Lincoln that is in the Capitol building.
Reading Level:
1120 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 7.5 11.0 35203.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.8 15 Quiz: 20235 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



A perceptive, thoughtful teenager lives through the events of America's Civil War as she develops her own remarkable career. Vinnie Ream was a real person who sculpted the statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands in the U.S. Capitol today.

Author Notes

Maureen Stack Sappèy is also the author of A Rose at Bull Run. She lives in Chesterton, MD.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-10. The magnificent statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., was sculpted by a tiny woman who was a teenager when she began it. In this fine epistolary novel, Sappey tells the story, skillfully blending history and fiction. The novel begins in 1861 in Arkansas, as 13-year-old Vinnie Ream writes to a friend about the beginning of the Civil War and her family's move to Washington, D.C. Although the friend is fictional, much of the material about Vinnie, her family, the Cherokee cousins who nearly steal her heart, her brother's fighting for the Confederacy, and the family's boarder, whose senatorial vote spared Andrew Johnson from being booted out of office, is true. Sappey's novel is a rich portrayal of this spirited and warmhearted young woman, who got permission to sculpt the president, loved his beautiful sadness, fiercely mourned his death, and was vilified in the press by jealous competitors. The heightened language is just right. Eager readers will wonder why it has taken so long for us to know Ream's name. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Sappey's (the Young American series) epistolary novel stars a little-known heroine of the Civil War, Vinnie Ream. Based on the artist who sculpted a famous statue of President Lincoln, the story opens as 13-year-old Vinnie writes to her fictive friend Regina just before the war begins in 1861 and concludes in 1869 during Johnson's impeachment proceedings. The author vividly paints the contrast in the capital where life goes on as usual amidst the war and destruction; especially convincing is her account of a picnic at Bull Run where battle breaks out unexpectedly. She skillfully uses major and minor characters to illustrate the most painful effects of the war: division between families (Vinnie's brother defies their Unionist family to fight for the Confederacy) and dashed dreams (a 16-year-old bugler, accepted into the Peabody Conservatory before the war, loses both hands). However, the letters themselves unfortunately often read more like bland diary entries; Regina remains undefined and seems more like a device for delivering information ("Regina, I am pleased you wish to learn more about sculpting a bust" than a friend. And the protagonist's sometimes passive recounting of dramatic events undercuts their impact. While readers' interest in Vinnie Ream and the Civil War in general may be awakened by the novel, the epilogue and a letter from the author describe an extraordinary woman who is not entirely captured in these pages. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Welcome historical fiction about the sculptress of the statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. Vinnie Ream tells her story of living in Washington, DC, through letters to her friend, Regina, beginning when she is 13 in 1861 and ending in 1869. While the letters and the friend are fictionalized, the events and people mentioned are real. Vinnie is a keen observer of her surroundings and of the people she meets. Personable, artistic, skilled, and lucky are words that describe her. Her letters are filled with her feelings of devotion to President Lincoln; anxiety caused by her brother's decision to fight for the Confederacy; love for her parents and sister; and typical teenage worries about suitors, fashion, etc. Through her eyes, readers gain knowledge of the Civil War, Lincoln, and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.-Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley College, Mt. Carmel, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.