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Young Reader Books

American Girl

Writing twenty titles for American Girl was a special experience!
Highlights include:

  • Creating the historical character of Caroline Abbott, who lived during the War of 1812. Meet Caroline, first book in the original series, was a national bestseller.

  • Contributing to other historical characters with books about Kit, Kirsten, Josefina, Molly, and Felicity. The most recent is Gunpowder and Teacakes: My Journey with Felicity.

  • Exploring other times and places with three History Mysteries, Trouble at Fort La Pointe, Whistler in the Dark, and Betrayal at Cross Creek.

Betrayal at Cross Creek Book Cover

Betrayal at Cross Creek

Whistler In The Dark Book Cover

Whistler in the

Trouble At Fort La Pointe Book Cover

Trouble at Fort La Pointe

More Young Reader Books

Highland Fling Book Cover

Highland Fling

A year ago, Tanya Zeshonski was living in Wisconsin, interning at the public television station, and eating Polish food on the holidays. Then her mother divorced her father, reclaimed her maiden name of MacDonald, and moved to North Carolina to submerge them all in their Scottish heritage.

Author's Note

I have long been fascinated by the possibility that our ancestors' experiences are somehow encoded in our genes. Even though we don't know how to access specific information, such genetic memory might explain why we sometimes have strong emotions about certain places, experiences, or activities. I wrote Highland Fling to explore that notion.

This book is dedicated to my daughter, Meghan, whose selection of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, brought me to my first Scottish Games.  It was that experience, and my time working in public television, that inspired Highland Fling.

Hearts Of Stone Book Cover

Hearts of Stone

With her father gone to join the Yankee troops and her best friend, Ben, sympathizing with the Confederates, fifteen year-old Hannah finds her world torn apart by the Civil War. Then her mother dies.

Author's Note

I was involved in Civil War reenacting for many years. The inspiration for this book came from a wonderful event held at Spring Hill, Tennessee.

There I participated with a group of reenactors who recreated a refugee camp. Our goal was to help visitors think about the many Southern people who became homeless during the terrible war years.

People often ask me to name my favorite among the books I've written. That's hard! But I must admit, Hearts of Stone has a special place in my heart—and based on letters and email I've received, it resonates with readers and reviewers too.

Ghosts of Vicksburg Book Cover

Ghosts of Vicksburg

Jamie Carswell’s happiest childhood memories are of summers spent in Mississippi with his favorite cousin, Althea Winston. When he joins the 14th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, he is horrified to find himself campaigning in Mississippi—and to see firsthand the impact of war on local women and children. Althea, meanwhile, is struggling to keep her family intact and safe. She is also haunted by a past mistake that took a terrible toll on her family.

Author's Note

One of the most sad and compelling things about the American Civil War is that it ripped not only the nation apart, but families as well.

I grew up in the border state of Maryland. Perhaps that’s why the notion of divided loyalties has always fascinated me. For Ghosts I created two main characters.  Jamie is a Wisconsin boy who joins the Union army. His cousin Althea, who lives in Mississippi, is a staunch Confederate supporter.

This book is about more than different viewpoints, though. The war presents terrible challenges to Jamie and Althea, and they respond in different ways. I hope the story gives you some new perspectives on what life was like for young people during those terrible times.

Retreat From Gettysburg book cover

Retreat From Gettysburg

Chigger O’Malley, of Williamsport, Maryland, is happy when rains and floodwater trap Robert E. Lee’s army after its dismal retreat from the battlefield at Gettysburg. His father and three older brothers, all members of the Union army’s famed Irish Brigade, have been killed in battle.

Author's Note

Hear the word “Gettysburg” and you probably think of the terrible three-day battle that took place 150 years ago in Pennsylvania. The drama didn’t end there, though.


I love writing books about lesser-known stories, and the tense days that followed the battle definitely qualify. Can you imagine having the entire Confederate army descend upon your tiny village?


Young Chigger O’Malley is one of my favorite characters, too. I think you’ll enjoy making his acquaintance!

The Bravest Girl In Sharpsburg Book cover

The Bravest Girl in Sharpsburg

The daring adventures of best friends Teresa Kretzer and Savilla Miller have earned them the title of "the bravest girls in Sharpsburg" -- and the admiration of Teresa's shy younger sister, Bethie. But when the Civil War looms, the girls become political enemies. Teresa is a staunch Unionist; Savilla, a Secessionist.

Author's Note

This book marks the only time I used real people as main characters in one of my novels. Theresa and Beth Kretzer, and Savilla Miller, grew up just two houses apart in the small town of Sharpsburg.


When the Civil War began, the Kretzers supported the Union and the Millers supported the Confederacy. You’ll meet all three girls in the book.


Who was the bravest girl in Sharpsburg? You can decide who should claim the title. I’ve enjoyed listening to readers discuss that when I visit schools and libraries.

The Night Riders Of Harpers Ferry

The Night Riders Of Harpers Ferry

A memorable tale of loyalty and adventure, based on a true story.

In the weeks preceding the Battle of Antietam Creek, 1862, Solomon Hargreave, along with the rest of the newly-formed 8th New York Cavalry Regiment, had to adjust to life in the army. The appointment of a Southern-born colonel to their unit, and rumors of a Confederate army advance did not ease their adjustment.

Author's Note

This was my very first published book!

The story takes place in two of my favorite places, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and the C&O Canal National Historical Park. One of the most exciting events of the Civil War took place in this area in 1862, and I had great fun incorporating that into the novel.


I hope reading the novel, and seeing the historical photos included in the book, will make you want to visit the area! 

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