55 pages 1 hour read

Irene Hunt

Across Five Aprils

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1964

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Chapters 1-3

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary

On a morning in mid-April, 1861, nine-year-old Jethro Creighton is out in a field with his mother, Ellen, helping her plant potatoes for their farm in Southern Illinois. Jethro knows his mother is worried that a war is going to start at any moment, but he doesn’t understand her worries and feels annoyed at her for bringing down the mood. His older brother Tom and cousin Eb have been talking about the impending civil war, and they’ve given him the impression that the war will be exciting and fun. Because of this, Jethro believes his mother’s anxiety is the result of a “womanly weakness” (12). He is her youngest child, and she has a slight favoritism toward him because he managed to survive in a year when three of her other young children all died from “child’s paralysis” (8), likely referring to polio. Because Jethro survived, she feels he must have some sort of great destiny.

The two pause to greet a wagon driven by Shadrach Yale, a 20-year-old schoolteacher who became very close to the Creighton family after Ellen nursed him through typhoid fever. Jethro looks up to Shad as a role model, and Shad appreciates Jethro’s natural love for learning; like Ellen, he feels that the boy has great potential.