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Dear Ellen Bee: A Civil War Scrapbook of Two Union Spies

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Based on a true story, two women, an abolitionist and a daughter of a freed slave, work together on an undercover project for the Union cause during the Civil War.

161 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2000

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About the author

Mary E. Lyons

26 books16 followers
Mary E. Lyons, a former teacher and librarian, became a full-time writer in 1993. She is the author of nineteen books for young readers published by Scribner, Atheneum, Henry Holt, Houghton Mifflin and Oxford University Press.

Born and raised in the American South, Mary Lyons lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband, Paul. Her publications for adults include The Blue Ridge Tunnel: A Remarkable Engineering Feat in Antebellum Virginia (History Press, 2014) and The Virginia Blue Ridge Railroad (History Press, 2015.)

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5 stars
33 (26%)
4 stars
39 (31%)
3 stars
40 (32%)
2 stars
10 (8%)
1 star
3 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews
Profile Image for Hannah Mead.
155 reviews
July 6, 2018
A fascinating insight into the spying life of the famous Miss Van Lew and the diverse characters that helped her. As a Civil War fan I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the turbulent historical times of the 1850s and 60s. I also really enjoyed the character of Liza - I found a kindred spirit in her independent ways. :D
1,436 reviews
January 17, 2023
Overall, this would be a good book for kids and is compiled in a unique way but the actual reading process felt a little choppy to me. I need to read something more substantial on Elizabeth Van Lew for better information.
Profile Image for Catherine.
2,009 reviews24 followers
October 23, 2018
A bit confusing, but a good take on Mary Bowsers story for younger readers.
Profile Image for Laurie Wheeler.
524 reviews3 followers
June 24, 2022
Set in Richmond, Virginia, 2 ladies become spies for the Union. Fascinating read based on a true story.
Profile Image for Pat.
222 reviews6 followers
January 25, 2009
This is a MG/YA re-telling/scrapbook of two female spies during the war.

I picked it up because I am teaching The Killer Angels. I often judge a book by my anxiousness to read it. I always picked this book to read first among the many books in my nightstand stack.

A freed slave, Eliza, and her former mistress, Bet Van Loew are the fact based characters upon which the story is written. It is a swift, but appropriate ride through the tumultuous Civil War in Virginia. The scrapbook pieces are authentic: a ticket, a checkerboard, drawings; the research is solid-the story is told through letters and journal entries. It was lightly satisfying.

However, I don't think I would have had the interest if not for teaching a Civil War novel. It's great as a light companion to Civil War study...if you're a Civil War history buff, this would be a fun read.

Profile Image for Stacy.
337 reviews
May 28, 2009
I am a yankee, married to a confederate rebel! Therefore, I could relate to this book. I do not know if I would have been as courageous as either Miss Bet or Liza, but I would have definitely sided with them. And the difference between Miss Bet and I is that I don't think I would have stayed there in the South after the war. Hard to say, however, when that would have been the only home I'd known. After all, isn't that why all Southerners love the South? It's all they know...(I'm getting myself into trouble!) I'd like to think that I'm not quite as bad as Miss Bet, in having things done her way---I sure hope not! But I enjoyed this format---items collected into a 'scrapbook'. I like things that make books unique. And all the Civil War memorabilia was fun to see. Cute book.
5 reviews
October 2, 2012
I read this book for my 7th Grade English class to get ready for the Civil War. It was a great story and gave me a fantastic overview of how slaves were treated and how much freed slaves valued their freedom. I have to write a book report about it and it is easier to write because I understood this book unlike other books. The layout is unique and a great way to learn. I defiantly recommend this book for ages 12 annd over!
Profile Image for Michelle.
524 reviews33 followers
December 1, 2013
My daughter found this book for me at the library and she was very proud of herself for finding a book on a subject that I love. The book was stated for ages 10-14, but I found a couple things in the content to actually be for a bit older kids ( a discussion about the girls "monthlies" and a comment about "being nervous on her wedding night"). Personally I think the book can be enjoyed by any age.

Profile Image for Ashley Sparks.
44 reviews2 followers
November 30, 2010
This was such a cool book. It included pictures and secret codes. Written in a diary like form, this book is sure to capture the young reader's mind and keep them engaged in the story. The thing that I liked about this book was that although it was about two girls, boys could relate to it as well. This was used a book for my literature circles lesson for PTLS.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
494 reviews1 follower
April 12, 2016
An interesting story based on real people and actual events. The problem for me is that I never developed any real empathy or concern for the two main characters. They were both stubborn and headstrong--and the events around them didn't seem to change that at all. The scrapbook bits and clips were very interesting though.
Profile Image for Aishe.
102 reviews12 followers
July 10, 2013
Really great book. Made me want to learn more about the actual women upon whom the book is based. Excellent read for middle school students through adults. I love the diary form, it really works. Could be a great curricular book as well.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
30 reviews1 follower
June 11, 2015
I loved reading this with a group of 4th grade (almost 5th grade) girls. They really got into the spy stuff. My only regret is we didn't get to work on inventing our own codes because we spent so much time having awesome student led discussions.
5 reviews
May 18, 2008
I am only half way through but really like it already! update when i am done!!
67 reviews5 followers
August 25, 2008
I really liked this book. Becky (my 9 yo) found this for me in the library. Its a quick read and very interesting. I really like the civil war times.
Profile Image for Phoebe.
67 reviews
January 31, 2011
Very interesting! And to think this was a true story too! A part of the Civil War you don't hear about in APUSH. If you're looking for an fitting read, check this one out!
426 reviews
August 18, 2011
A good story for a glimpse into the civilian side of the civil war.
Profile Image for Sarah Adams.
16 reviews
January 13, 2014
I had a hard time connecting to the characters. I think there just wasn't enough development.
Profile Image for Sheryl.
36 reviews1 follower
May 8, 2014
A good book in history. Provides great input into the lives of slaves.
Profile Image for Connie.
29 reviews
June 16, 2016
Loved this book! Great format, the characters personalities came to life with feelings! A great way to learn history and not even know you are!
Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews

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