Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt is a poignant novel for middle school age readers, although it can also be used for upper elementary and high school. Set during the Civil War, the title refers to the fact that the war started in April 1861 and ended in April 1865. This is a deep novel about complex issues and the different perspectives that can be taken about slavery and war. Expect to read carefully along with your student and be prepared to discuss the themes. There is much to learn about life, courage, and decisions here!
IMPORTANT NOTE: I have referred to three historical poems in this study guide. You can find them in the on-line study guide document which also contains all of the questions you find below in an easy-to-print Across Five Aprils Study Questions and Poetry PDF.
The novel is available from Christian Book Distributors here: Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt.
You can find the publisher's free study guide PDF file here: Across Five Aprils Study Guide by Glencoe. You may wish to use it instead of or in addition to my study questions since it has some really great ideas, activities, maps, spelling and vocabulary words, charts, etc. My questions for chapters 1 and 2 refer to the "Introducing the Novel" and "Meet Irene Hunt" handouts which I printed out from it.
You can also use Spark Notes for Across Five Aprils and Book Rags for Across Five Aprils. I have not read all the way through these, so I don't know much of what is in them.
Please note that there may be some minor typos in my study guide and that the page numbers were from the edition we used in our home school co-op class, so if a question is driving you nuts, just skip it! :-)
- Read “Introducing the Novel” handout from the publisher's study guide before reading chapter 1.
- Look at the first sentence (which ends with the word “road”) and tell who (names of 2 people and their relationship), what (just one main action), where (as much as you can find), and when (as much as you can find).
- In the second paragraph, write down and correct any words in non-standard English.
- Describe Jethro’s relationship with his mother.
- Tell what Jethro’s opinion is about the possibility of war.
- Read the “Meet Irene Hunt” handout from the publisher's study guide before reading chapter 2.
- How do the ladies show hospitality to Wilse Graham?
- Compare Bill and John and describe their relationship.
- How does Jethro’s attitude toward war change on page 32?
- What news does Shad bring from Newton?
- What is going on in the first page of this chapter?
- How does Bill respond to Jethro’s nighttime fears?
- What is Bill’s opinion of the war
- What happened between Bill and John?
- Read “To William Lloyd Garrison” poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. William Lloyd Garrison (December 12, 1805–May 24, 1879) was a prominent United States abolitionist, journalist, and social reformer. He is best known as the editor of the radical abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, and as one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society. You can read more at: William Lloyd Garrison
- On page 53, what do we find out about Jethro’s view of suffering?
- What method did Shad use to teach Jethro about the events of the war so far?
- What short rebuke does Shad give to Jethro?
- What plans does Shad have for Jethro?
- Read entire “Expostulation” poem by John Greenleaf Whittier and copy the verse below. (See if you can memorize it, too!) John Greenleaf Whittier (December 17, 1807 – September 7, 1892) was an American Quaker poet and forceful advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. You can read more at John Greenleaf Whittier and his poem "Barbara Frietchie."
- What is Jethro’s task in this chapter?
- What happens at the store in Newton?
- Describe Russ (Red) Milton.
- How has your opinion of Dave Burdow changed since the start of this chapter?
- What major change occurs in Jethro’s life in this chapter?
- How does Jenny describe herself (two ways) on page 95?
- Describe the change in Matt Creighton’s personality on page 96.
- What makes Jethro angry in this chapter?
- What does Ross Milton do on behalf of the Creighton family?
- What happens to Guy Wortman?
- What is Jethro puzzled about at the end of this chapter?
- What event happens at the Creighton’s farm?
- Copy the paragraph which starts and the bottom of page 123 and ends on the top of 124.
- Correct the grammar, punctuation, and spelling in this statement by John on page 127: “The sufferin and scenes of death was sech as to make a mans hart hate war.”
- What is Shad’s opinion of General McClellan compared to General Burnside?
- What happens in the beginning of this chapter which makes everyone uneasy?
- What is Jethro’s dilemma after he finds Eb?
- What does he decide to do?
- What is the result of the letter which Jethro sent?
1. What does Shad’s spinster aunt request in her letter?
2. Find and correct any incorrect words in Jenny’s letter which starts: “I go to the hospital every day…” (Note: This includes putting apostrophes in words where necessary.)
3. Read the poem “The High Tide at Gettysburg,” and then tell who you think the author, Will Henry Thompson, might have been.
- Early in the chapter, the author comments: “Those who fought battles comfortably within their homes or newspaper offices had more than enough mud to spare.” What does this mean?
- What was President Lincoln’s offer to the Confederates?
- What news does Jethro’s family receive about Bill?
- What did Sherman’s Army of Tennessee do to Georgia?
- What was Ed Turner’s reaction to his son’s letter?
- What did Ross Milton say about “peace” when the war would be over?
- Read this passage aloud with expression to one of your parents, and then explain what it means to them. Practice several times first! “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, schooled as he was in the philosophy of men who work the soil. The rains came or they were withheld, the heat ripened the grain or blasted it with scorching flame, the ears of corn matured in golden beauty of they were infested by worms or blight. 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, a Sunday of sunlight and bright sky, Jethro lay in the grass on Walnut Hill, and rage mingled with grief in his heart.”