Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

It was the saddest and most cruel April of the five. It had held out an almost unbelievable joy and had then struck out in fury at those whose hands were outstretched. Jethro had learned to accept the whims of fate…One accepted the good or the evil with humility, for life was a mystery, and questions were not for the lowly. But on the last Sunday of that April…rage mingled with grief in his heart.

Why did it happen? Why-why-did it have to happen?

It was only four years earlier that nine-year-old Jethro Creighton was busy helping his mother plant potatoes on his family’s farm in southern Illinois. The farm and family made up Jethro’s entire world until the spring of 1861, when news of the outbreak of the Civil War reached them. Like the country itself, the Creighton family was torn apart by the unfolding turbulent events. Two brothers and a cousin joined the Union army while another brother went south to join the Confederates. With his father becoming an invalid due to a heart attack, and with most of the men of the family off at war, it was up to young Jethro and his sister to take charge of the farming.

Over the course of the war, Jethro was forced to grow up, not only with his responsibilities on the farm, but by circumstances that taught him a great deal about life, human behavior, sorrow, pain, and the ugliness of war. By April of 1865, Jethro was no longer the naïve, pampered baby of the family. He experienced the pain that war and death brought, the joy of victory and the return of loved ones, and finally the sorrow and confusion at the news that President Abraham Lincoln, a man whom Jethro admired deeply, was assassinated. The book concludes with the now thirteen-year-old wondering why things like that had to happen, as he looked to an uncertain, murky future of the post-Civil War era.