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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Review: Winter of the Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory

The Winter of Red Snow: The Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1777
by Kristiana Gregory
Dear America Diaries series
Unabridged, 3 hr. 50 min.
Live Oak Media
Barbara Rosenblatt and Jennifer Ikeda (Narrators)
February 15, 2006

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Source: Downloaded audio from my local library
“Eleven-year-old Abigail Jane Stewart's fictionalized diary about her life, family, friends, and neighbors, and the sides they have to choose in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, during the height of the Revolutionary War, renders a vivid portrayal of one of the most memorable and crucial winters in American history. Abby's life with her family is quickly upended when they are awakened by the unfamiliar sound of drums. General George Washington is leading the Continental soldiers into their winter encampment at Valley Forge, PA.”
As a kid I loved reading the Dear America diaries although I only read a few of them back then. I have recently found myself interested in them again (of course after I gave away all of mine and when the majority of them are still out of print!). However, as of 2010, Scholastic has begun to reprint many of the books as well as release new ones.

The Winter of Red Snow was my second read in this series (however it is the first I am reviewing at this time). I have to admit that I never spent much time thinking about that winter at Valley Forge – and when I did, it was usually about the soldiers and how they were hungry, cold, and drummed into shape my Von Stueben. However, this book led me to consider the effects on the residents of Valley Forge with all of the soldiers camped in the backyards, literally. Throughout this diary we learn about how the families frequently gave up goods, supplies and food for the soldiers, took jobs to help the encampment, and the sicknesses that could affect them too. We also make a quick trip to Philadelphia during this book where the British troops are encamped for the winter and get to see a comparison of how they wintered compared to the Continental army. Trips are made into the Continental encampment and the headquarters building for General Washington and we learn a lot about the lives of the soldiers.

This book is less of an adventure story and I found it a little less enjoyable than some of the other books in this series because of it. Throughout the story the Continental Army is just waiting out the winter and at the end of the book it is spring and they have set out again. There is great historical information though. If introducing the series to a young one in your life, I might not start out with this book, but once they are sucked into the story mix it in.

This was also my first piece of fiction with George and Martha Washington as characters. They were portrayed very much the way I would expect them to be – the General is very regal, strong, but quiet. Martha is warm, caring, and 100% supportive of the cause.

One of the unique aspects of this diary that I enjoyed was the inclusion of recipes in the diary. Martha Washington’s famous 40 egg cake (!) is included as well as a recipe for onion soup, and another that I cannot remember at this time. This lends itself to a cooking experiment!

There was a very extensive historical note at the end of this diary. They set up the events that preceded Valley Forge as well as a summary of what happened afterward to the surrender at Yorktown. There was a lot more of a note in this than many other historicals that I have read and I think this is wonderful especially for the youth who these books are designed for. There is a sequel to this book, Cannons at Dawn and I am interested as to where this book takes us, since at the end of Winter of Red Snow the soldiers have left Valley Forge.


There were two narrators of this book – the first was the narrator for the actual diary and the second narrated the historical note at the end. The narrator for the diary was wonderful at conveying a youthful sense to her narration and really made you feel like you were listening to the inner thoughts of Abby as she wrote in her diary. There was emotion and emphasis where there should be. The narrator of the historical note was sufficient in her role, but I am not sure why they needed two different narrators.

Kristiana Gregory also has written several other books in the Dear America series. There is also a sequel to Winter of Red Snow entitled, Cannons at Dawn. You can visit the Scholastic website for additional information about the book and activities to do with your children and recipes to make. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

My other reviews of books in this series:

Other reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Interesting especially since I live in Philly and have been to Valley Forge. As brutal as the conditions were, I find Gettysburg to be much more compelling when visiting.

    1. You know, I hadn't really thought about being able to visit Valley Forge. I will have to rectify that.


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