Stonewall is a reluctant bugle boy. His parents are Civil War fanatics (hence his rather awkward first name), and all his life he's been dragged to re-enactments of famous Civil War battles, forced to bugle as soon as he's old enough, sleep in a tent, wear a scratchy uniform, and pretend to care about his great great etc uncle Cyrus, a Confederate soldier who got shot in the butt at the first battle of Bull Run. Not how he wants to spend his weekends.
It's Bull Run time again when this book opens, and Stonewall's parents are furious that he left his bugle at home. But at least there's a spot of brightness--a cute girl named Ashby Dupree has come with her father this weekend. Thing is, Mr. Dupree is a fanatic believer that the south should have won the war, and he'll do anything to make that happened. Including travelling back in time, to change the course of history.
It's up to Stonewall to stop him. The loan of a dented and dull old bugle has sent him back in time as well, and now he is living the battle of Bull Run. It's a far cry from the tidy re-enactments he grew up with--the reality, of course, is death and chaos. Stonewall, spending the day with his uncle Cyrus, must fight not just to save himself (and perhaps save his uncle's butt), but to stop Mr. Dupree. And they are not the only time travellers--Ashby has come back too.
The focus of the book is on the battle, so there's plenty of well-written battle action. Although lots of people get shot, and it's rather horrible, and not exactly my cup of tea, but my interest was sustained by the nice balance of human interest the authors incorporate into their description of the battle. Stonewall not only learns what the battle was like, but about the people who were fighting in it, and the people on the periphery, like a young slave named Jacob, whose lives were being changed by it. I read it briskly, eager to see how the story would play out.
This is the sort of timeslip that is a superb history lesson--fact-filled without overt didacticism. It seems to me that most books for middle grade and YA readers about the Civil War are girl books--Two Girls of Gettysburg, by Lisa Klein, Red Moon at Sharpsburg, by Rosemary Wells, In My Father's House, by Ann Rinaldi. Stonewall Hinkleman is an infinitely more boy-friendly book (although not particularly girl-friendly per se. I would have liked to have seen more of Ashby, who seemed a bit of a token female).
Timeslip-wise, I give the authors high marks. Stonewall's reactions to the past are spot on, neither too confused or too facile. The time travel device is, perhaps, a tad forced (I tend not to like devices, myself), but it does leave the way open for a sequel, which I would welcome.
Here you can find a list of the stops on Stonewall's blog tour of last spring, for other reviews and comments.