The Winter of Red Snow: The Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart, by Kristiana Gregory, was published in 1996 by Scholastic.
Eleven-year-old Abigail Jane Stewart records the despair and hope of the difficult winter between 1777-1778—when she witnessed George Washington readying his young soldiers on the frozen fields of Valley Forge.
The Winter of Red Snow is the sort of Dear America book that I think about when I think of Dear America: the story of a young girl whose ordinary life is being touched by the historical events going on around her. This book is much less random than, say, Standing in the Light or even Look to the Hills (which was more pointedly about slavery than about any particular historical event), and the combination of historical event and fiction melds nicely. Kristiana Gregory is also quite experienced at writing Dear America books, so perhaps that also is the reason why I felt The Winter of Red Snow meshes better than other Dear America books.
I grew up near Philadelphia and visited Valley Forge, so The Winter of Red Snow touched the nostalgic part of my heart while reading. I thought Gregory hit a nice balance of the sort of awe and patriotism that Abigail might feel for the soldiers, coupled with the frustration and anger as the soldiers looted the homes around them for supplies. And while the story today might smack of a bit too much hero worship to some people, I think the depiction of George Washington and other famous historical figures and Abigail’s reaction to them are accurate for the time period.
The thing I perhaps most appreciate about the Dear America series, especially one so nicely melded as this one, is the combination of history and narrative that it gives. It’s so much easier to remember history when there’s a story attached to it, as opposed to random dates and names. Perhaps that’s why I know so much about history despite having stopped taking history classes after my sophomore year of college. I don’t remember much about what I learned in those classes, but I remember all the books I’ve read that describe the events that I learned about.
I’m very familiar with The Winter of Red Snow, both in terms of setting and the book itself, as it is one I read many times growing up. Perhaps that’s why I feel so favorably towards it (although those feelings pale in comparison to my two favorite Dear America books, Seeds of Gold (Gold Rush) and One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping (World War II)). I think that Gregory depicts the setting accurately, down to the reactions of the people and the descriptions of the hard winter of 1777-1778. I also think the story of Abigail integrates well with the historical event itself; it seems much more cohesive than other Dear America books.
Recommended Age Range: 8+
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s
“Who are these dear children?” said one of the women coming over to greet us. She was about my height, extremely plump, and had a friendly, smiling face, though I must admit she was not at all pretty. (I did not like her wide nostrils nor the mole on her cheek.)
“Ma’am,” said Billy Lee, “these here are Missus Stewart’s girls, those that keeps your husband’s shirts, ma’am.”
This was Lady Washington!