Wednesday, April 25, 2018
The Not-so-Boring Letters of Private Nobody by Matthew Landis
"She was in an all-out sprint down that hill to see if you were hurt."
"I guess," Oliver said. "But so were you. Friends don't just sit there while their friends maybe impale themselves."
Oliver is practically an expert on the Civil War. He knows all about the battles, the heroes, the generals -- he even does Civil War reenactments and is planning to participate in the anniversary of the Gettysburg battle. He's been waiting ages for his history teacher to get around to the Civil War and he can't wait to do a Civil War project. But, then he's assigned to do a documentary on Private Raymond Stone, an everyday soldier who was killed by disease before he even got to fight in a single battle. What's the point of that? Even worse, he has to work with a partner. Ella is messy and flunking everything. The last thing he needs is someone to get in his way, much less a slacker like Ella.
But, as Oliver and Ella get to work on their project, he discovers there's more to Ella and Private Stone than he could possibly have imagined. Ella is smart and fun to work with. And, they've discovered a mystery that involves the young soldier and his enlistment. The more they dig, the more intriguing Private Stone's story turns out to be. And, the longer they work together, the more Oliver finds to like about Ella. With the help of a third friend, Kevin, the trio works to dig up the true story of Private Raymond Stone and create a film that will knock the socks off their teacher while, at the same time, Oliver is beginning to find Ella distracting in a very good way.
Highly recommended - I loved everything about The Not-so-Boring Letters of Private Nobody. It's smart, funny, educational, and a little romantic. Since the story is told from Oliver's point of view, the romance is told from a male perspective (refreshing and rare). I also loved the fact that the teacher's objective is to show his class that war is not just about the well-known names and dates; it's also about the lives of everyday people whose contribution may be small but still meaningful. But, the best thing about the book was that besides being a tremendously entertaining book, there's a realistic aspect to it. I kept finding myself thinking, "This feels like life in a real classroom," during the classroom scenes. And, wishing I had a teacher like Oliver and Ella's. Sure enough, the author is an 8th grade social studies teacher. No wonder it felt so real. And, boy, does he have a terrific sense of humor. I will definitely be looking for more books by Matthew Landis.
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