After the Rain: Virginia's Civil War Diary Discussion Guide
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
To The Discussion Leader
Mary Pope Osborne continues ten-year-old Victoria Dickens' Civil War adventures in After the Rain: Virginia's Civil War Diary, Book Two. Virginia and her family leave their Gettysburg home and their memories of that fierce battle to move to Mr. Lincoln's Washington.
Virginia's diary entries introduce readers to a city of neglected buildings and mud-filled streets, teaming with destitute soldiers escaping the violence as the Civil War comes to a close. To Virginia, however, Washington is an inspiring place to live because her hero, Abraham Lincoln, is here. The Dickens family struggles with poverty as each member searches for work. Young Virginia grapples with envy as she yearns for a life in a more prosperous family. Her brother finds a low level job at the newspaper and brings home daily reports of the war and Mr. Lincoln. Virginia and her family rejoice when Lincoln is elected for a second term. They join the Washington festivities when Lee surrenders to Grant. They weep with broken-hearted sadness when President Lincoln is assassinated. After the rain and storms of war and assassination, Virginia and her beloved family struggle to remain thankful, optimistic, and in the words of Lincoln, try to trust "the better angels of our nature."
"In a little while, our train will arrive in Washington City — or 'Mr. Lincoln's Washington' as Pa calls it," writes ten-year-old Virginia Dickens in her diary. "I can hardly wait to see Jed." It is November 1864. Virginia, her father, and sister-in-law Jane Ellen have moved to Washington, D. C. to join her brother Jed who has found work as a newspaper reporter. It is election time, and Virginia is thrilled when Lincoln is reelected President. She is sure he will soon end the Civil War and unite the divided country.
But life is not easy for Virginia and her family. Pa cannot find work, Jane Ellen is ill due to her pregnancy, and Jed's job does not pay enough to support them all. Virginia decides to help out by taking a job cleaning a wealthy woman's home. Soon she begins to envy the rich lifestyle, and she resents the shabby rooms where she lives. She writes, "Never before have I wished to be someone other than myself."
Finally Virginia becomes so unhappy she decides to visit a fortuneteller who promises "good advice for young and old." Madame Masha tells Virginia to banish envy from her life and go home to her family. She also predicts "great change is coming."
Soon Jed gets word he'll get a raise, Jane Ellen feels better, and Pa finds a job playing his violin in the orchestra at Ford's Theatre. News comes that General Lee has surrendered to General Grant, and "finally the war is over." Life seems good again.
But tragedy strikes when President Lincoln is shot while watching a play at Ford's Theatre. Virginia is devastated. She writes, "Clouds cover the moon. The night is so dark, it feels like every candle on earth has gone out." When Lincoln dies, the entire nation mourns.
A week later, Jane Ellen gives birth to a son, and the family names him Abraham Lincoln Dickens. Virginia realizes that great changes are always taking place and "maybe all we can do is to keep hope in our hearts."
Thinking About the Book
- Why do you think that author of Virginia's diary, Mary Pope Osborne, titled the book After the Rain?
- Why is "envy" one of the most important words in this book?
- On December 21, 1864, Virginia writes, "I felt like a girl made of air." What did she mean?
- Explain why you think the author of After the Rain, Mary Pope Osborne, had Virginia take the housekeeping job working for Mrs. Potter?
- Virginia's father has to break his promise to allow her to go with him to see a play at Ford's Theatre. Why was his promise broken?
- How and why was President Abraham Lincoln killed?
- By the end of After the Rain, does Virginia still believe that the fortune-teller, Madame Masha, had special knowledge about the future?
- Identify each of the following people mentioned in After the Rain.
Abraham Lincoln Dickens
John Wilkes Booth
- Virginia spends a good deal of time in her diary describing what the city of Washington, D.C. looked like in 1864-65. In your own words write a description of the city during Lincoln's time. Compare each description written by your group members. What did you all agree on? What were some differences?
- Several songs are mentioned in Virginia's diary: "Dixie" is probably the best known, and it was President Lincoln's favorite. Learn about this song, then click on the audio player to hear the melody.
- One popular museum exhibit in Washington, D.C. displays the items President Lincoln had in his pocket the night he was assassinated. See if you can find out what those items were. Do they tell you anything about this great leader?
- In your group, discuss Virginia's May 4, 1865 diary entry. Do you agree that "Great change is always taking place?" Does Virginia think change is hopeful or something to be feared?
- On page 20, Virginia tells of President Lincoln making Thanksgiving Day an official November holiday. Read Lincoln's speech about Thanksgiving Day . If you had been President Lincoln, would you have set Thanksgiving Day in November? Why or why not?
- Find out what the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution says. Why was this so important to Virginia, her family, President Lincoln, and many other Americans?
Discussion Guide written by Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults, University of Houston, and Eleanore S. Tyson, Ed.D., Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Houston, Texas.