Title: Sarah Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender: The True Story of a Civil War Spy
Author: Carrie Jones
Illustrator: Mark Oldroyd
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Concepts: jobs, economics of gender, discrimination
Review: With an abusive father who clearly favored boys over girls, Sarah Emma Edmonds started early in her childhood pretending to be a boy. This skill came in handy later on when she ran away from Canada to the United States and she needed to earn money. Back in the mid-1800s, few women held paid jobs, and Emma could earn more taking on the role of a young man named Frank Thompson. Emma kept her alter ego Frank when she enlisted as a male nurse in the Union army during the Civil War. She even pretended to be Frank pretending to be several other people when "Frank" worked as a Union spy behind Confederate lines. Her motives for doing so may have had as much complexity as her multiple roles.
Dramatic illustrations and carefully-selected vignettes make this informative biographical account of an unusual Civil War soldier accessible to young learners. Although the text is a bit sparse, parents and teachers can use the book to stimulate discussion about how gender discrimination in employment and women's roles in the military have changed over time.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children