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From Slave to Soldier

Based on a True Civil War Story

Illustrated by Brian Floca

Johnny loves his Uncle Silas and his master's mule, Nell, but he hates being a slave. So when a group of soldiers marches by the farm and asks Johnny if he wants to join the Union Army, Johnny accepts, even though it means leaving Uncle Silas and Nell.
Being a soldier isn't easy. Johnny is given a chance to work with a soldier named Dave and the company's mule team, but he still wonders if he has made the right choice.
Then one night a hungry patrol is out on watch across the river from the camp, with no one to bring them food. Can Johnny handle the mule team all by himself?
This story was inspired by the life of John McCline, who, as a young boy, escaped slavery to serve in the Union Army.

Photo Credit:

Deborah Hopkinson is the author of numerous award-winning children's books, including Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, winner of the International Reading Association Award, Girl Wonder, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award, and Apples to Oregon, a Junior Library Guild Selection. She received the 2003 Washington State Book Award for Under the Quilt for the Night. She lives in Oregon. Visit her onlinw at

Brian Floca is the author and illustrator of Locomotive, winner of the 2013 Caldecott Medal; Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book; Lightship, also a Sibert Honor Book; and Racecar Alphabet, an ALA Notable Children’s Book. He has illustrated Avi’s Poppy Stories, Kate Messner’s Marty McGuire novels, and Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, a Sibert Honor Book and winner of the Orbis Pictus Award. You can visit him online at

  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
  • Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award

More books from this author: Deborah Hopkinson

More books from this illustrator: Brian Floca

More books in this series: Ready-to-Reads