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The Totally Made-up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  156 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Amanda MacLeish might be the only student in Mr. Abrams's fifth-grade class who doesn't mind doing her homework. Now that her father has left home and moved into a motel, the only thing that brings Amanda any joy is writing her fictional diary entries about a young girl named Polly who lives amid the chaos of the Civil War. Polly would understand Amanda. With one brother f ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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(showing 1-30 of 268)
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Jul 20, 2008 Jamie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jamie by: Capitol Choices
Claudia Mills does such an amazing job with dialog! The opening scene of the Monopoly game is so strong in setting the tone. I also like that the divorce/marriage problems were respectfully done, as were race relations issues in the school project. The interplay between the "reala life" and the Civil War diary was very clever and successful. What a pleasant surprise!!
Dec 18, 2008 Lisa rated it liked it
Great concept here-a 5th grade class is assigned perspectives to write civil war diaries from. Amanda's family is falling apart in real life and her day to day experiences combined with was she is learning about the civil war contribute to her entries so there are two compelling story lines. One thing that made me a little uncomfortable was how the author made a point of only including one African-American boy in the story and everytime a comment is made about slavery or the Confederacy Amanda l ...more
Jun 15, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it
Shelves: summer-reading
I kind of liked it! It was really boring at the beginning of the book like the first five chapters were really boring but the rest was really good which is why i gave it a four instead of a five. Its about this girl (Amanda) that has to write a civil war diary with made up characters in it. So its historical fiction so you might like it better if you like history. But i like her diary entries a lot but there's some other parts that were interesting to me. It also has a really good ending. I LIKE ...more
Dec 30, 2010 Marfita rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 28, 2011 Stephanie rated it really liked it
I made a wonderful connection at the beginning of the book. Amanda's family is very much like ours at the beginning of the book. However, it changes after that. Amanda writes about her life somewhat through her civil war diary. Very enjoyable and meaningful.

Amanda MacLeish might be the only student in Mr. Abrams’s fifth-grade class who doesn’t mind doing her homework. Now that her father has left home and moved into a motel, the only thing that brings Amanda any joy is writing her fictional dia
Jan 11, 2010 Terri rated it really liked it
Members of Amanda MacLeish's 5th grade class were randomly assigned persons from the Civil War and required to write a diary from that person's perspective for one month. Amanda loves to write, and she incorporates the conflict and turmoil of her family life into her imagined diary of Polly, a young girl whose two brothers join opposing armies in the Civil War. Amanda intuitively identifies the universal concepts behind the conflict in her real world and adapts her emotions and details to portra ...more
Oct 08, 2010 LeeAnn rated it liked it
This is a Mark Twain nominee for 2010. My daughter is reading the MT nominees in school so I have been reading them too. I was impressed with the way the author wove the diary's fictional author's diary entries in with the main character's, Amanda's life as it unfolded. In this book, Amanda's family is unraveling even as her diary personna's life is confusing her, and both come to the end after reaching conciliation with the events in each of their lives.

All in all, this is a good book. My main
Oct 19, 2013 Georgene rated it really liked it
Amanda MacLeish's family is splitting up - her dad has moved out and is living in a motel. Amanda and her sister, Steffi don't really understand what is happening or why, but Amanda finds comfort in writing diary entries for Polly, a girl living during the Civil War whose 2 brothers end up fighting on opposite sides. This diary is an on-going assignment from her 5th grade teacher. The students share their diary entries in class, and Amanda's entries are a favorite, but Amanda is having problems ...more
Addison Children
Feb 10, 2014 Addison Children rated it liked it
Shelves: chapter-books
Amanda is having problems at home, her dad has moved out. Amanda, who enjoys writing, expresses her fears and frustrations through her school assignment. The Civil War diary she writes, as a girl from Maryland with a brother fighting for each cause, is fairly believable. She must have done some research. Some of the other diaries, each child in the class writes as a different character, are a hoot.
Jan 16, 2016 Becky rated it really liked it
Amanda has a school assignment to write a diary about a Civil War era girl with 2 brothers, one fighting for the North, one for the South. Amanda's parents have just separated. Amanda works through her feelings about her parents, sister, and school friends through her diary. Not quite a predictable ending which is a good thing.
Jan 29, 2011 Angie rated it really liked it
Don't let the title fool you like it did me...this is a very well written book about a very real topic -- dealing with the separation and divorce of your parents. Amanda struggles to come to terms with the fact that her parents are no longer together - she blames her mother, then her father, then learns that it takes both parents to break up a marriage. The use of the diary works surprisingly well here. Amanda is able deal with some of her issues through her diary entries and tie the parallel st ...more
Aug 14, 2008 Edie rated it really liked it
Mills's characters are very genuine and the pain that the main character feels at the separation of her parents is very real and resonates off the page. Her confusion about this new phase in the life of her family is also apparent, especially her reluctance to share this information with her best friend and the rift this causes in their friendship (as well as her growing annoyance with their "perfect" family that she has so wished for and found comfort in. The civil war aspect is a bit gimmicky ...more
Apr 06, 2008 Tracie rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-school, elem
Lately I've been wishing for 3.5 stars often and that's where I'd really place this one. Anyway, Amanda MacLeish is the best writer in her class and that is about the only thing that seems to be helping her get through the sudden separation of her parents. Seeing as how her Dad has a girlfriend, her Mother is just angry, her older sister is hot and cold, and her best friend seems to have a new best friend - at least that's how it all looks to Amanda.
I liked that this book had a story within a
Aug 19, 2008 Joenna rated it it was amazing
Amanda is in 5th grade and they have an assignment where they are each given a Civil War character and they must create a diary of the character. Amanda's family life is falling apart. She knows her parents fight, but she is shocked when her dad moves out, which she thinks is all her mom's fault. Her older sister is grumpy and always fighting with her mom. Her best friend is also ignoring her and has perhaps found a new best friend. Amanda's Civil War character Polly, while in a different time p ...more
Sharon Matney
Aug 17, 2010 Sharon Matney rated it liked it
A good book for getting kids interested in the American Civil War. Teachers could adapt the fictional teacher's assignment of having students choose a person (real or fictional) and spend a month writing a diary (in blog form perhaps) from that person's point of view. Amanda (the protagonist) is obviously a gifted writer (I don't know many 4th graders who write so meaningfully) who makes connections between her present-day life (faced with challenges such as her parents' separation) and her char ...more
Feb 22, 2016 Brenda rated it really liked it
Claudia Mills knows kids - they can't help but find themselves someplace in her books.
Jan 15, 2016 Janaelah rated it it was amazing
its very good and you should go read it. It deserves a five star
Matthew Winner
Mar 08, 2009 Matthew Winner rated it really liked it
Wow! Another story that just pulls and pulls you in!

Amanda's parents are recently separated and she struggles with understanding why her mother would choose to leave her father. In the meantime she maintains a Civil War diary for a school assignment in which she imagines herself in the role of a young girl whose brothers enlist to fight on different sides of the war. Amanda pours her personal life into the diary and her struggle becomes that of the readers.

Well written and worth picking up.
Oct 28, 2008 Kathy rated it really liked it
Amanda's assignment is to write the diary of a girl whose 2 brothers fight in the Civil War-1 for each side. At home, her parents separate, and at school she notices the black boy facing racism both overt and covert. Her real life plays out in her diary, where she can explore being caught in the middle and loving all of her family. I liked that nobody is wholly bad or good, and that even tho the US stays whole, Amanda's family doesn't-not everything is a happy ending.
Mrs. Wynn
Jul 18, 2013 Mrs. Wynn rated it it was amazing
I loved the book. Amanda is really going through some tough stuff family-wise (Dad left and is beginning a new relationship with another woman), and she loses herself in the life of Polly, a Civil War-era character she creates a diary for as a history assignment. Claudia Mills is a master at character-development (I've read several of her books), and she excels here with both Amanda and Polly.
Recommended for ages 10-13
Lynn Wynn
Jul 18, 2013 Lynn Wynn rated it it was amazing
I loved the book. Amanda is really going through some tough stuff family-wise (Dad left and is beginning a new relationship with another woman), and she loses herself in the life of Polly, a Civil War-era character she creates a diary for as a history assignment. Claudia Mills is a master at character-development (I've read several of her books), and she excels here with both Amanda and Polly.
Jan 23, 2011 Jessica rated it liked it
this is definitely a book for a young audience, but i thought the writer did a really good job with the story and feelings in it. the main character's parents are getting a divorce and she processes her reality through an assignment in fiction for her social studies class. perhaps it's a bit simplistic, but nevertheless i thought the emotions portrayed felt real and raw.
Anna Francesca
Aug 07, 2010 Anna Francesca rated it really liked it
This sensitive book ties a contemporary family's break-up and a rift between once-best-friends to the occurances during the civil war. It touches on the topics of divorce and racism in a realistic, non-preachy way. Even though the protagonist is a girl, I can see both girls and boys enjoying it. This would be a good choice as a seed for class discussions, as well.
Oct 06, 2009 Martha rated it really liked it
Enjoyable book about a fifth-grader suffering through a civil war in her family who finds solace in writing a Civil War diary for a school assignment. The issue of families broken up by the US Civil War is cleverly paralleled by Amanda's own broken family, and themes of friendship and racism in modern times are skillfully treated.
Nancy Keller
Oct 14, 2010 Nancy Keller rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
The title and cover of this book certainly are not as good as the story. The story was much better than I expected. It would be interesting to see what kids think of this story about children dealing with divorce when their father finds someone else to take their mother's place when all their parents do is fight.
Apr 10, 2009 Raegan rated it really liked it
It was good. I liked how what was going on in the diary corresponded with Amanda's life. It confused me, though, b/c Amanda was writing a story, and her story had many similarities with the one I'm working on, including the main character's name. So I frequently had to stop and work out my thoughts.
Jun 13, 2008 Ann rated it did not like it
How come every story line I have read lately has a family breaking up? I would have loved more story with the diaries the kids wrote. Although I feel the diary writing was too advanced for 5th graders. I would have loved having more of the story about the Civil War and the effect it had on the students.
Oct 29, 2009 Kim rated it it was ok
Shelves: chapter, historical
Everyone in Amanda's 5th grade class is given an assignment to write a diary about a person living during the civil war. She writes about Polly, a girl living in Maryland that has one brother fighting for the North nad one for the South.
Sue (booknbeachbag)
Nov 29, 2009 Sue (booknbeachbag) rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book a lot. It had parallel stories about a girl whose family is falling apart while she's writing a made-up diary of a Civil War girl whose country *and* family are falling apart.
Jessie Johnson
Feb 10, 2012 Jessie Johnson rated it really liked it
Kid dialogue that actually sounds like kids...what a concept! Characters are real and endearing, and the author does an exceptional job with tough topics, primarily racism and divorce.
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Claudia Mills is the author of How Oliver Olson Changed the World, 7 x 9 = Trouble!, Being Teddy Roosevelt, and many other books for children. She was born in New York City in 1954. She received her bachelor's degree from Wellesley College, her master's degree from Princeton University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. She also received an M.L.S. degree from the University of M ...more
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