Family reading series on war story to begin Monday

Breakfast Serials are back. The upcoming story series, The Shadow of My Father's Hand: A Boy's Civil War Journal, written by Craig Crist-Evans, begins Monday.

The 17-week series features a 14-year-old boy and the experiences he endures during the Civil War in Tennessee in 1864. The boy records his pain and triumphs through poetry. He witnesses his father's death at the Battle of Gettysburg and must struggle to get the crops planted on time. Through it all, his best friend is a freed slave -- a controversial relationship at a time when some still supported slavery.

Each Monday, a new installment of the series complete with illustrations will be published in the Craig Daily Press.

Breakfast Serials portrays this set of stories as a haunting personal war story, conveyed through a poignant narrative poem that is at once a story of family, of friendship, of the horrors of war and of one boy's struggle to survive and grow up.

Crist-Evans is an accomplished author and poet. Among his many honors are four Pushcart Nominations for poetry and a New York Public Library Best Books for the Teenage List honor. He served as Poet in the Schools for Colorado from 1992 to 1997, and taught an independent program entitled "Global Awareness & the Writing Process" in eight Colorado school districts.

"I began to write poetry at the age of twelve while in military school. It was a defense mechanism, a survival strategy, a way to get through an awful experience," Crist-Evans said.

He decided to write for this series because he wanted to reach a larger audience than he would have through a book, and he chose to write about the Civil War because of the legacy that remains.

"A schism opened up our country and almost destroyed it. The remains of battlefields and the diaries of our ancestors stand testament. Their stories of agony and devastation haunt us. What happened then could happen again; it is happening all over the world," he said.

By looking at history and learning from it, Crist-Evans hopes to answer some questions:

"How do we survive in the face of imminent self-destruction? Why do people resort to bloodshed to resolve differences? What are the consequences for the men and women who fight, for the families left behind, for the communities that suffer loss and destruction?"

He doesn't claim to answer those questions, but said he explores them through the lens of a young boy in this series and in the prequel, Moon over Tennessee.

One of Crist-Evans' stated goals is to make poetry accessible to schoolchildren.

"And the key is to present poetry that is fun and vivid, imaginative and evocative, playful and serious, all at the same time. Once children discover that poetry is fun and feels good rolling off their tongues, they'll be hooked on poetry and, hopefully, readers for life."

Crist-Evans has this advice for young writers: "Read. Write. Then read and write more. Write until words dance in your dreams like ballerinas or wild bulls. Write anything and everything. Be silly, be serious, be dangerous, be you."

New York painter Anna Rich illustrated the series and has worked on other books including Cleveland Lee's Beale Street Band and Annie's Gifts. Like Crist-Evans, she has been practicing her craft since childhood.

While working on this project, Rich had to decide what scenes to paint.

"I reach for an image from each entry that gives me a visual jolt," Rich said.

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