Teacher Writes CW Series for Teens
By Tish Osborne
The Civil War Courier - http://www.civilwarcourier.com
(reprinted with permission)
A Florida high school History teacher has put together a series of books for
teen-agers about the Civil War that's bound to awaken interest.
The series is called Young Heroes of History and the author is Alan N. Kay,
Florida's History Day Teacher of the Year for 2001.
"My series is designed to get teens excited about history and to
present the war's information in an easy to understand, unbiased way,"
Kay explained. "Each story is self-contained, with a specific plot,
characters and climax that make it an exciting adventure all on its
The series of 10 books follows one family from pre-Civil War through battles
like Fredericksburg, Antietam, Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea
to Lincoln's assassination and Reconstruction.
Kay said each book deals with a different family member and sometimes they
bring in friends of the family, as in Book 7 where we read about a free
black who has joined the army.
The series follows the family of three Irish brothers, who in 1846, leave
their homes and immigrate to America. They marry and have children. These
children are the main characters in the books.
"There are over 10 children of various ages in our series. This allows
us to maintain the main character’s age as similar to the reader even
though we are covering almost a 10-year period," Kay explained.
In the two pre-civil war books "Send ‘Em South" and "On the
Trail of John Brown’s Body," slavery and the North-South antagonisms
affect the older boys. By the time the Civil War begins, the family splits
in two just like the nation. This allows us to look at the war from both
Books Three through Eight relate what it is like for a kid who joins the
army in both the North and in the South, how civilians are affected, the
role of blacks both slave and free, the medical practices and problems. This
part of the series recounts some of the primary battles.
"We end the series with a look at how the South has suffered and their
attitudes in defeat," Kay said. "Books nine and ten deal with the
assassination of Lincoln, the reconstruction period and the rise of the Ku
"Even if they only read one book, they will have a better understanding
of what is going on because the background behind the characters helps fuel
everything that is done," he added.
Kay picked the Civil War because he believes it contains all elements of
history in one time period. "Any possible story that can be imagined of
tragedy, heroism, love, devotion, success or failure can be seen in the
Civil War," he said.
He said the war defines the national character even today when it explores
the "reach" of the Federal government in light of actions like
Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. "That
showed just how strongly some people still feel about this issue," he
Also, Kay said, "This time period was the climax of race antagonisms.
African Americans, Indians, Chinese and all other non-white groups were
second class citizens or slaves. Our country began a slow and agonizing
process towards equality and justice for all."
The book series is published by White Mane Kids, new to children's' books
but a major distributor. The series is available through all major
bookstores, from Amazon.com and at Kay's web site,
Kay is very active with the National History Day program, a type of
"science-fair" where student develop projects on an assigned topic
in history. Kay founded two different programs in Central Florida. After
receiving the state award, Kay became one of eight finalists for National
History Day Teacher of the Year.
The Daughters of the American Revolution also named Kay Florida's American
History Teacher of the Year in April.
He has a master's degree in education and is a graduate of Brandeis
University. He has been teaching middle and high school students History for
10 years. He and his wife, Heidi, have three children.