...in the last decade especially, authors of children’s biographies have put their “Free to Be” ideals to paper, not only writing sophisticated history, but also exploring the lives of women quite different from the usual girl-crush suspects. Two new biographies, the bittersweet “Queen of the Falls,” written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, and the rollicking “Nurse, Soldier, Spy,” written by Marissa Moss and illustrated by John Hendrix, are admirable and enlightening examples.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books had this to say:
It’s a generally accepted fact that many women passed as men on Civil War battlefields, but the condition of secrecy, of course, rendered their stories untold. Much is known, though, about Sarah Edmonds, a young Canadian woman who enlisted in the Michigan Volunteer Infantry under the name of Frank Thompson. Serving first as a battlefield nurse, Sarah/Frank was recruited for espionage missions behind Confederate lines. Her spying days came to an end with a bout of malaria; unwilling to risk revealing her identity in a military hospital, she sought civilian medical attention instead. By the time “Sarah” had recovered, “Frank” was listed as a deserter, forcing Edmonds to retire from soldiering. Jones and Moss have sometimes conflicting, sometimes complementary takes on Edmonds’ story. Moss has her initially fleeing from an arranged marriage, and Jones from an abusive father. Moss emphasizes her nursing role and one mission as a spy; Jones discusses several of her disguises on various spy missions. Each title has a distinctive look: the jazzed-up folksiness of Hendrix’s pictures in Nurse and Oldroyd’s hazily atmospheric illustrations in Sarah. In a battle of the books, Nurse has a slight edge with snappier storytelling, a substantial historical note, remarks on the artist’s research, a glossary of Civil War terms, bibliographies, and an index, and even a pair of photographs of Edmonds and “Thompson.” There’s a pragmatic simplicity to Jones’ text, though, and she weighs in additionally with the “Thompson” photo, a brief note, and a briefer bibliography.
And a nice review from Booklist:
This lively picture book introduces Sarah Emma Edmonds, a Canadian girl who began dressing as a man at 16, later moved to Michigan to escape an arranged marriage, and joined the Union army under the name Frank Thompson. She served as a field-hospital nurse and a spy. Rather than squeezing all of Edmonds’ eventful life into a short book, Moss introduces her in a few paragraphs and spotlights particular experiences in greater detail, such as her enlistment in the army, her recruitment as a spy, and a successful mission to disguise herself as a slave and gather information behind enemy lines. Author’s and illustrator’s notes, a glossary, and source bibliographies are appended. In ink-and-wash illustrations, Hendrix, who illustrated Abe Lincoln Crosses the Creek (2008), again displays his knack for visual narrative. The aerial view of Edmonds approaching the Confederate camp is particularly effective. This large-format picture book illustrates Edmonds’ courage and determination while conveying a good deal of information in a highly readable way.
From The Sacramento Bee, a nice roundup including "Nurse, Soldier, Spy."
Readers won't stop until the last page of Marissa Moss' exciting Civil War story about Sarah Edmonds' life as a man in the Union Army. Moss drew from Edmonds' memoir for details about her military service as a fighter, nurse and spy. Edmonds had first dressed as a man in order to escape an arranged marriage. Even though soldier Sarah, serving as Frank Thompson, could outshoot and outride many of the country boys, they called her "our little woman" because of her small stature and baby face. She laughed. She fought in several major battles, including Bull Run and Fair Oaks and then, disguised as a freed slave, spied on the rebels. Vivid illustrations by artist John Hendrix match Moss' exciting account of Sarah's life in the Army.