Cecil's Story

by Lyon, George Ella. Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto. (Orchard, 1991 ISBN 053107063. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades 2+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.


This sad and thoughtful book allows us to watch as a young boy works on a neighbor's farm and waits for his mother to find and bring back his wounded father. It's Civil War time and Cecil works and tries to be hopeful, crying only at night, but war, as we well know, is hard, especially for the young who can only wait. At last his parents return; his father, minus one arm but still able to pick him up with his other.

The text is simple but eloquent and so are the illustrations. The story actually begins on the covers, both front and back, which show us Cecil's family before the action of the book. The mother churns while the father chops woods and the boy plays with soldiers, one of which has one arm missing. The title page shows father and son returning from a successful fishing trip. The dedication page shows the soldiers riding off to war, the grey paint dripping down the page. Catalanotto shows the passage of time, for instance, when the boy is waiting and worrying, by showing us the blurred chain of a hen's egg developing into a chick. The text never mentions that it is the Civil War but the illustrations define it for us. The book was written during the Gulf War Crisis.


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