Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Review: All Their Names Were Courage by Sharon Phillips Denslow

Written by Sharon Phillips Denslow
Historical Fiction
Ages 7 and up

An historical novel, set during the Civil War, told in the form of letters over the course of three years, as eleven year old Sally Burd corresponds with her brother William, a Union soldier away at war. Sally writes to her brother that she and her friend Isaac have decided to write a book about the horses of Generals fighting in the war, illustrated by Isaac. She writes a letter of introduction and sends copies off to 19 generals, on both sides of the war. Here is an excerpt of that letter:

"Dear Sir,
My friend Isaac Mills and myself, Sarah McAlister Burd, both eleven and one half years,  of Brewers Mill, Kentucky, are writing to generals with regard to your fine horses. We mean to make a book of horses with pictures drawn by Isaac and letters from generals, such as yourself, telling us some about your favorite horse. We feel that the courageous warhorses and their stories and daring should not be lost."
When I saw this book on the library shelf, the title intrigued me. Then when I realized it was an epistolary book, I had to check it out: I'm a sucker for books in the form of letters or journals.
As I started to read, I quickly got hooked by the story. I appreciated that the focus of the book isn't on taking sides in the war; rather, it's about the life of a family, seen through the eyes of a young girl, when a son and brother are away at war; it's about the relationship between brother and sister, and their joint interest in the project that Sally and Isaac have undertaken. And even though I am not a horse person, I was intrigued by the project they undertook. I have never really considered before just how important horses were in the Civil War. I now have a better understanding and appreciation for those gallant warhorses and that all their names were, indeed, Courage.

Book published in 2003 by Greenwillow
This copy borrowed from the library.


  1. Hey Megan! I just sent you an invite to our blog to your mouseprints email. :)

  2. I'm unfamiliar with this title. My dd has LOVED the My America books, so I think she might like this one. Thanks for the review!

  3. Heidi - I got it. Thanks!

    Amy - I hope she likes it. I think it will appeal more to 9 or 10 year olds, 'though if they are interested, it will certainly work for good readers who are younger.