The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody

304p. Dial. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780735227989.
Gr 5–7—Seventh-grader Oliver Prichard can name every general and battle of the Civil War; he even participates in historical reenactments. So when he learns that a major history project is based on the Civil War, he feels confident that this will be his moment to shine. But there are two factors in Oliver's way: first, he is paired with Ella, a disheveled girl who is often staring out the window. Also, Oliver and Ella are assigned to research Private Raymond Stone, a Union soldier who died of dysentery, a long way from the glory-filled stories Oliver prefers to tell. As he begins to explore Private Stone's wartime experience, Oliver stumbles on a more engaging story, including a mystery about the soldier's enlistment. He also invites his friend, Kevin Kim, to join the quest which takes them from the Doylestown Historical Society to Gettysburg. Along the way, it is not only Private Stone's story that becomes more compelling—Ella's does, too. Oliver makes major missteps in navigating both the project and his "more than friends" interest in Ella, but with the help of his enthusiastic history teacher, Oliver reaches a more nuanced understanding of the Civil War and of his first crush. One of the novel's strongest scenes touches on the national debate about Confederate monuments. Although the dialogue between the characters feels stiff at times, the topic will appeal to young history buffs.
VERDICT A solid choice for middle grade collections, especially those seeking contemporary stories with a healthy dose of historical content and curricular connections.

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