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Gilbert VanZandt Silver Ribbon Skinny Review by Christine Hindle

Marilyn W. Seguin
Branden Publishing
PO Box 812094
Wellesley, MA 02482

Gilbert Van Zandt

Gilbert VanZandt was a 10-year-old when he joined the U.S. Army as a drummer boy during the Civil War. He was known as "Little Gib." Since his father was joining, he wanted to join too. At first, his mother was not willing for him to go. Two of her brothers had already gone, and many of her husband's relatives were going. However, Gib convinced her just to let him go to the training and then return in a few weeks. After the training, however, he wanted to continue on in the fight. So he wrote to his mother that he was not coming home till the war was over. He was with General Sherman's "march to the sea" through Atlanta to Savannah. He saw a lot of action and had some near misses. One of his worst experiences was seeing his friend Billy killed right before his eyes. A cousin of Gib's was killed that same day. After the war the regiment went to Washington for the victory celebration, and President Johnson (President Lincoln had already been murdered by this time) wanted to meet the little drummer boy who had marched clear to Savannah with General Sherman. He offered 14-year-old Gib what he thought was a great reward, a commission in the Army. Gib, however, had already seen all the action he wished to see and asked that he instead be allowed to keep the pony he had ridden in the war, which was U.S. government property. President Johnson allowed it, although he was puzzled that Gib would turn down the commission.

This 127-page paperback has a cover price of $12.95. It was an interesting book to read. My 11-year-old granddaughter loved it and wrote a book report about it. This would be a great resource when your student is studying American history.

Silver Ribbon Skinny

Pearl Nye was born in 1872 and was raised on a canal boat on the Ohio & Erie Canal with his siblings. His favorite job as a boy was driving the mules that pulled the canal boat down the canal. The drivers were nicknamed Mule Skinners, and that is how Pearl got the nickname Skinny. He was happy about the nickname because he thought it was a better name for a boy than his given name, Pearl. The Silver Ribbon referred to the canal. Skinny loved the canal and never wanted to do anything else but captain a canal boat. When he was 15 his father died, and he and his mother and siblings took over the canal boat. He became known as Captain Nye. The epilogue says that he and his mother operated the boat until 1913, when the canal was destroyed by a flood. Even after he could no longer operate his canal boat, he kept the way of life alive in people's hearts by writing poetry and songs about it. Eventually, he moved back to the site of the canal and built himself a house on one of the locks, using an old canal boat as part of the frame. He lived out his life there.

The author has included photographs, maps, and a glossary of terms with the story. The picture of the Nye family on their canal boat is especially nice. This is a wonderful story that is sure to capture the imaginations of children and introduce them to a little-known part of the history of this country.

This 127-page paperback has a cover price of $12.95. I can recommend it to readers of any age. The author has a gift for taking true stories from history and making them enjoyable for her readers.

Product review by Christine Hindle, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2010