Rebel Raiders – Book Recommendation

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rebel raidersTitle: Rebel Raiders

Author: Lisa Trimble Actor

Illustrator: Hazel Mitchell

Publisher: Wasteland Press

Publication date: 2/21/2013

Pages: 156

Ages: 8 -12

Genre/themes: historical fiction, civil war, ohio, rebels, yankees, horses

Opening Lines: 

Anyone living in Jackson County in 1863 knew, without a doubt, that the top of Cemetery Hill was the surest spot this side of the Ohio River to catch a refreshing breeze………On this particular afternoon, Dill Dunbar stood among eight freshly dug graves wishing for the barest hint of a breeze.


Cordelia (Dill) Dunbar hasn’t quite turned eleven when she attends her first funeral for a family member, her uncle Swinge, shot in the belly by a Minié. At his graveside she also learns that the rebel armies led by John Hunt Morgan are headed straight for their little town of Jackson, and the far off fighting suddenly threatens to impact the family at home. With her pa away at war, her ma in bed with diptheria, and her elder brother off with the other men preparing the town’s defence, the burden of protecting the family farm and especially her brother’s young Buckskin stallion, falls on young Dill. When the 52 enemy soldiers show up at the farm demanding food, Dill shows wisdom and courage beyond her ten years. Confronted with both the harsh reality of war and its human side, she  negotiates with the rebel leader, to try and save the farm from the normal pillaging and destruction.  But can the enemy keep his word? REBEL RAIDERS is based on a true story passed down through generations of the author’s family.

Why I like this book:

This is a historical novel with page-turning tension and heart – a great read for boys and girls and a terrific snapshot into an important historical event from the eyes of a plucky and compassionate protagonist. You won’t just be cheering for spunky Dill, either. All the characters are well fleshed-out individuals, crafted beautifully into their historical setting with authentic language, location and details. Dill’s best friend, Simon, who is still reeling from losing his own Mom to diphtheria, is a courageous and faithful companion, if a little foolish at times. Levi Long is a rebel by whom, among others, Dill has some of her prejudices exposed. While the horror of war isn’t blanched, the focus of this story is on one family and on the humanity, similarity and dignity of both sides in any conflict.

This is clearly a well-researched novel and the well-crafted language plays a big role in wooing the reader into the time period, context and the rural Ohio location. Speaking of the sound of a telegraph being communicated, Actor writes:

The messages coming across the wire gave the sound of meadow crickets on a summer evening.

The cover art is captivating and professional (not always the case in self-published books), and to me hints at the quality of the interior. The black and white chapter heading illustrations are delightful, adding another dimension of authenticity to the story—giving just the right hint of the content of each chapter. I am so glad we get a glimpse of the one-eyed beagle, Nelie!

I highly recommend this as a great middle grade addition to your shelves of civil war stories.


The author timed the release of this book perfectly for the 150th anniversary of Morgan’s Raid. For the history around this family legend, go to

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review of the work.

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10 Responses to Rebel Raiders – Book Recommendation

  1. What a wonderful story handed down through generations of Lisa Actor’s family. I love historical fiction, especially civial war stories. It sounds like a very unique story and a great adveture story. Dill is a very strong character. I’m glad Lisa wrote a middle grade book. I know the area of where she speaks because I had family members living in southern Ohio near Chillicothe. Will have to check it out. Love Hazel’s cover illustration. Great review Joanna.

    • Joanna says:

      Pat, I thought of you and your Ohio roots and enjoyment of historical fiction when I was reading this. I know you’d enjoy it.

  2. Those first lines certainly draw a person in! The book sounds fantastic. I must try to find it, as I expand my reading base. Love Hazel’s cover art! (No surprise there!) Thanks, Joanna, for this review.

  3. Joanna says:

    Yes, it’s a great hook, Beth, and while MG doesn’t really ‘need’ illustrations, Hazel’s additions do add something to this great story!

  4. Lisa Actor says:

    Thank you, Joanna, for your thoughtful review of Dill’s story. From what I know of her, the real-life Dill would’ve loved being called “plucky”! And I agree with you, Pat and Beth about Hazel’s artwork. She did an amazing job!

  5. This sounds great, Joanna! I love historical fiction, and stories that make things come alive for kids. And it’s great to have such an inspiring kid heroine. Plus I like the horse on the cover 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  6. Rhythm says:

    This was a really great review Ms Marple! It sounds like a book I should recommend to some teachers!

  7. Joanna says:

    Rhythm, I think you’d enjoy Nellie, the beagle, too! Woof

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