The Totally Made Up Civil-War Diary of Amanda MacLeish

Ages 8 to 12. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008. 978-0-374-37696-3

Colorado Book Award
Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year

How I Came to Write This Book:

I've been increasingly drawn to write books inspired by the remarkably creative assignments my sons' teachers gave to them when they were in elementary school, such as Mini-Society ( Trading Places ), a biography tea ( Being Teddy Roosevelt ), and here, a diary-writing project. I knew I wanted to write about a child who would pour out her feelings about her own life into the diary she was writing for her school social studies assignment, and it seemed natural then to pair a Civil War diary with a story of a parental separation. The cat Peanut in the book was inspired by our own cat Snickers.

Published: 2008

The Totally Made Up Civil-War Diary of Amanda MacLeish


Budding writer Amanda is totally into her fifth-grade class assignment, writing a diary from the point of view of a person living through the Civil War. Assigned to be ten-year-old Polly from Frederick, Maryland, whose brothers are fighting on opposite sides of the war, Amanda writes about Polly's heartbreak when her brothers enlist and about her deep feelings of betrayal when her favorite brother decides to fight for the South. The diary entries are filled with genuine emotion, possibly because Amanda's family is in the midst of its own civil war. Her mother has asked Amanda's father to move out, and Amanda, like Polly, is desperate for life to go back to the way it was, wounds healed and a truce declared. Like Polly, she doesn't know whom to root for, her loyalties torn between those she loves. . . Young readers will appreciate the cathartic nature of the diary and be drawn along by the real-life battles Amanda endures with her family and with her best-friend, who seems to have deserted her for another girl. Veteran author Mills wins again, with an eminently likable protagonist, well-integrated subplots, and an emotionally involving story, perfectly aimed at her middle-grade audience.
- Horn Book