By: Irene Hunt Level: Grades 5-8
Teaching Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
You can give your students a really good idea of what it was like to grow up during the Civil War when you teach Across Five Aprils, a Newbery Honor book by Irene Hunt. Many different viewpoints of the war are voiced by various characters, and your students will clearly see how difficult this period in American history was for families, who were often split in their opinions. This book provides an excellent opportunity to explore with students the personal effects of the war and to discuss in broader terms the effects of any war on the people & families involved.
The teaching resources below will give you many options for helping your students better understand Across Five Aprils and the important themes in it.
Summary of Across Five Aprils
Jethro is a nine year-old boy who is the youngest of twelve children in the Creighton family. Growing up during the American Civil War, Jethro learns what it means to be at war as he sees his family and neighbors divided by their opposing views, some fighting for the North and some fighting for the South. It is the story of one family's struggle amid a nation's struggle, to find a resolution to conflict.
A Brief Biography of Irene Hunt
Irene Hunt (May 18, 1907 – May 18, 2001) was born to Franklin P. and Sarah Land Hunt on May 18, 1907 in Pontiac, Illinois. The family soon moved to Newton, Illinois, but Franklin died when Hunt was only seven, and the family moved again to be close to Hunt's grandparents. Hunt's childhood was lonely, but she shared a special relationship with her grandfather who told her stories about his childhood during the Civil War. The stories she heard from her grandfather became the basis of the story of Jethro in her Newbery Honor book Across Five Aprils.
Hunt graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana to go onto University of Minnesota, Minneapolis where she earned her M.A. In Illinois public schools, she was a teacher of English and French. Later, she taught psychology at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, but eventually came back to elementary and junior high school to become a director of language arts in Illinois. After she retired in 1969, Hunt devoted her time to writing. It was at age fifty-seven that she published her first novel.
When Across Five Aprils was published in 1965, it received much acclaim. Chosen a Newbery Honor Book, the novel was also Hunt's personal favorite among the ones she wrote. A critic maintains: "Brilliant characterization, a telling sense of story, an uncanny ability to balance fact and fiction, and compassionate, graceful writing mark Hunt's small but distinguished body of work." With Across Five Aprils, Hunt established herself as one of the greatest historical novelists, proving that she can write for both adult and children audiences. With her faith in "courage, love, and mercy," Hunt wrote her books to emphasize this faith.
Her next novel, Up a Road Slowly, won the 1967 Newbery Medal.
She died on her 94th birthday on May 18, 2001
"This is a beautifully written book, filled with bloodshed, hate, and tears, but also with love, loyalty, and compassion . . . unforgettable characters." --Chicago Tribune
"Drawing from family records and from stories told by her grandfather, the author has, in an uncommonly fine narrative ,created living characters and vividly reconstructed a crucial period of history." --Booklist
"A powerfully moving story about the Creighton family of southern Illinois and their personal struggles in the War Between the States." --Chicago Daily News