Spradlin, Michael. Into the Killing Seas
June 30th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Patrick and his younger brother Teddy are ripped from their parents' care when the Japanese invade the Philippines at the start of WWII, and are sent to an orphanage in Guam. Life there is difficult, but they meet Benny, a gruff sailor from New York, who smuggles them aboard the USS Indianapolis in order to get them back to the US. Things go well until the ship is torpedoed, and Benny and the boys end up on a wooden pallet, floating in the seas. Benny has been badly hurt in an explosion, and Teddy is inconsolable-- he hasn't spoken since being separated from his parents, so he is hard to control. His screaming attracts the attention of sharks, and Patrick must fight them, as well as try to ration out their water and avoid the other sailors who are adrift and waiting for rescue. Benny is an invaluable help to Patrick, and tells him stories to help the time pass, encouraging Patrick all the while to be brave and hang on. Eventually, the boys are picked up by another ship and the ending is (mainly) happy, except for one nice twist.
Strengths: Liked this one more than Surrounded by Sharks, because I liked Patrick, and there was enough backstory to make this more than just the boys surviving in the sea. Good details about that, but I liked the historical spin of this one, especially since the Japanese attack of the Philippines was included. Salisbury's The Hunt for the Bamboo Rat and Farrel's Pure Grit would make good accompaniments to this. This will find many readers.
Weaknesses: A tiny bit confusing with the flashback, but I can see why it was written this way. Also not a huge fan of the twist at the end, but again, I can see why it was done.
What I really thought: Definitely one to highlight at a Scholastic book fair. This was realistic fiction; we will attribute the twist at the end to dehydration-induced hallucinations rather than any fantastical element.