Title: Lucy's Cave: A Story of Vicksburg, 1863
Author and Illustrator: Karen B. Winnick
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 3.4
Concepts: scarcity, needs, economics and conflict
Review: During the Civil War, Vicksburg, Mississippi came under attack by Union army gunboats from the Mississippi River. The siege lasted forty-seven days, during which many families and their slaves fled to the hills around the city and took refuge in a series of caves and tunnels. This book is based on the published remembrances of Lucy McRae, who experienced the Vicksburg siege and the cave shelter as an eleven-year old child. Told from a child’s point of view, the fearful sounds and vibrations of shell explosions help Lucy to accept the necessity of living in this dark and damp enclosure. She has more trouble accepting the gestures of friendship from annoying Liddy Lord until a bad accident shows her the importance of friends and community.
With its carefully-researched text and oil paintings in the style of Civil War era artists, Lucy’s Cave is historical fiction for kids at its finest. The book also embraces important lessons in economics related to scarcity and needs. Families who may have lived prosperously before were now eating lumpy cornmeal gruel for dinner, sleeping on wooden planks with pieces of carpet, hauling buckets of water for subsistence and buckets of human waste for disposal, cooking on a communal fire, kneading bread made from animal feed, and living endless days in a dimly lit cavern. Lucy’s Cave makes a valuable addition to any collection of children’s books with substantive content intertwined with an appealing story.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children