Cover image for Girl in blue
Girl in blue
Rinaldi, Ann.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic, 2001.
Physical Description:
310 pages ; 22 cm
To escape an abusive father and an arranged marriage, fourteen-year-old Sarah, dressed as a boy, leaves her Michigan home to enlist in the Union Army, and becomes a soldier on the battlefields of Virginia as well as a Union spy working in the house of Confederate sympathizer Rose O'Neal Greenhow in Washington, D.C.
Reading Level:
680 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.0 9.0 50151.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.1 15 Quiz: 24316 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


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

On Order



As a teen, Sarah Wheelock has vowed never to let a man control her. With this conviction, she leaves her life on a Michigan farm, disguises herself as a boy, and fights in the Civil War.

Author Notes

Young adult author Ann Rinaldi was born in New York City on August 27, 1934. After high school, she became a secretary in the business world. She got married in 1960 and stopped working, but after having two children she decided to try writing. In 1969, she wrote a weekly column in the Somerset Messenger Gazette and in 1970 she wrote two columns a week for the Trentonian, which eventually led to her writing features and soft new stories. She published her first novel Term Paper in 1979, but was ultimately drawn to writing historical fiction when her son became involved in reenactments while he was in high school. Her first historical fiction novel was Time Enough for Drums. She also writes for the Dear America series. She currently lives in Somerville, New Jersey with her husband.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-8. Determined to leave her unhappy home in rural Michigan, Sarah disguises herself as a boy and joins the Union army. She serves in a hospital, then in combat, where she shoots a man and watches as his heart stop beating. Later, after her identity is revealed, she is invited to join the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Instructed to spy upon a spy, Rose Greenhow, Sarah joins the household as a maid and learns everything she can about the wily woman and her subterfuges. Based on research into the lives of Sarah Emma Edmonds, Rose Greenhow, and Allan Pinkerton, this first-person novel will engage readers through its sympathetic main character and exciting action. The story slows down a bit in the second half, and Sarah's love interest is not quite convincing. Still, readers will find Sarah an adventurous heroine and her story an involving one. --Carolyn Phelan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rinaldi (Coffin Quilt; Wolf by the Ears) delivers another fast-paced Civil War adventure, this time about a Michigan girl who masquerades as a Union soldier and then becomes a Pinkerton spy. Readers will immediately like 16-year-old Sarah, introduced just as she is planning to shoot at the lecherous widower whom her abusive father intends for her to marry. Before long, Sarah has enlisted in the Second Michigan under the alias Neddy Compton. Rinaldi rather quickly describes Sarah's efforts to conceal her identity (she cuts her hair and avoids the latrine), and more exacting readers may also wonder how she hides menstruation and breasts. On the other hand, the rapid narrative doesn't leave the audience too much time to question Rinaldi's devices. Sarah works for a Union doctor, enters into battle and shoots her first Rebel, then carries out a dying man's poignant last request. When her secret is at last discovered, she is pressed into service as a spy and thrust undercover as a maid for a notorious Confederate socialite and spy. There Sarah craftily deduces how her Mata Hari mistress ferrets messages behind enemy lines, and there, too, Sarah falls in love with the rakish Lieutenant Sheldon, who may or may not be a traitor. The relationships between the characters do not seem as strong as the narrative claims, however; fortunately, Sarah's force of personality is enough to hold readers. Ages 9-14. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-Inspired by the war fever of 1861, and tired of her father's mistreatment, 15-year-old Sarah Wheelock determines to run away and join the Union forces to fight the Confederacy. The last straw comes when her father promises her hand in marriage to a man who is twice her age and has the manners of a bear. After she cuts her hair, changes clothes, and lowers her voice, Sarah has few problems passing as a boy: years of hard farm labor have toughened her physically, and she has a natural talent for impersonation. Soon, young Private "Neddy Compton" is on the road to Washington, DC, with the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Despite being a model enlisted "man," Sarah is unmasked, and is transferred into the Secret Service, part of Allan Pinkerton's network of spies. Her acting skills are tested in a new and dangerous disguise, as a servant to notorious Rose Greenhow and other Southern sympathizers who are being held under house arrest. Here, the young woman's patriotism, loyalty, and intelligence will be tested beyond anything she experienced as a soldier. While Sarah and the other characters lack depth, Rinaldi's novel offers an exciting plot based on solid historical research.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.