Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: Gunpowder Girls

Gunpowder Girls
by Tanya Anderson

Why did you choose this book? Civil War events that I was previously unaware of
When did you read this book? October 2016
Who should read this book? readers who want to learn about women’s efforts during the Civil War
Source: Library Thing Early Reviewers
Here is a synopsis of Gunpowder Girls from Goodreads

Gunpowder Girls is a story of child labor and immigrant hopes and the cruel, endless demands of an all-consuming war. Tanya Anderson (Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to Gettysburg) combines meticulous research and moving narrative to tell the true stories of three appalling Civil War disasters involving girls as young as ten.

With thousands of men off fighting in the Civil War, the government hired women and girls-some as young as ten-to make millions of rounds of ammunition. Poor immigrant girls and widows paid the price for carelessness at three major arsenals. Many of these workers were killed, blown up and burned beyond recognition. Hidden history comes alive through primary-source research and page-turning narrative.

As Steve Sheinkin did with The Port Chicago 50, Tanya Anderson in Gunpowder Girls tells an amazing war story that finally gives its subjects their due.

My Review

One of my favorite periods of history to learn about is the Civil War era. I wanted to read this book because it seemed to cover new territory that I, as least, was unaware of. The book is written at perhaps a middle school level which may cause the reader to think there isn’t much ‘meat’ in the book, but that reader would be mistaken. I couldn’t ask for more in a book — I learned so much. Though a quick read, there is plenty of ‘meat’ in this book, with numerous illustrations and notes to enhance the material. One example; I now know how cartridges were assembled and loaded into muskets to be fired. A well-trained soldier could load and fire 2-3 times per minute, which really puts into perspective what our forefathers had in mind when they wrote the 2nd amendment! And while I knew women had served as spies, nurses, and even soldiers during the war, I did not know how widespread the employment of women in the war effort was at that time!

Learning about these girls and women and their work also brought to mind my aunt, who worked in the ‘lab’ at Olin on ‘Powder Mill Road’ shortly after WWII. I was young and though I knew there were dangers of explosion (and even knew that whistle codes that indicated what building had the fire!) and that Olin was associated with ammunition, I always thought she was a chemist. I now have to wonder if the ‘lab’ she worked in assembled cartridges!

Even though the book is written for young adults, the author has included an extensive bibliography and recommended reading for those who want to learn more. This should satisfy adults who read the book.

You can read an excerpt on the publisher’s website. Below is a book trailer for Gunpowder Girls.

My Rating:  ★★★★★    5 Stars

I received a review copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.
post signature


  1. Sounds interesting! A lot of the middle grade books I've picked up have been too light for me, but this sounds like it was really well done.

  2. Thanks for such a great review! I hope you find out more about your aunt's work. Lots of time the ammunition-making areas of arsenals were called "labs" or "laboratories." You may have had a gunpowder girl in your family!

    1. This is the author, by the way. :)
      Tanya Anderson