Lynch, Christ. The Liberators.
August 25th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Nick Nardini, who played baseball while his best friend Zach Klecko was in the Civilian Conservation Corps. They aren't wild about leaving Ohio and going to war, especially since Zach has a girl, but they sign up since they are promised by the recruiter that they will be together. Zach isn't very fast, and his feet are almost flat, but the two end up as Paramarines, in the Second Parachute Battalion. After grueling training, they think they will get sent to Guadalcanal, but they get sent to Vella Lavella to secure the Barakoma Airfield. It's already been taken back with the help of New Zealanders, but is still a strategic area. After that, they go to Choiseul Island where they will have to engage the enemy and hopefully take the island and clear off the Japanese. This is a difficult task, and Nick becomes so sick with dengue fever and jungle rot that he spends some time in the hospital before going back. At the end, the Battalion comes across a Japanese prisoner of war camp that they liberate. Highlight for spoiler: They find Hank McCallum, Theo's brother, there.
Strengths: There are a lot of books set in the European theater, but few in the Pacific. The descriptions of training, of being on islands with a few of the enemy hiding, and of slogging through dense jungles in the extreme wet are so vivid. War is not something that I really enjoy reading about, but this was compelling. It made me think of South Pacific or Black Sheep Squadron, too.
Weaknesses: Since the Vietnam series follows one group of friends, I keep thinking that these books will also be connected. When I found out that Nick was a baseball player, I got very confused. Not sure how all of these fit together, but they are all brilliant individually anyway.
What I really think: I don't know how Lynch does his research for these, but it is nothing short of brilliant. He balances perfectly the thrill of being in battle with the absolute devastation his characters feel when they kill other men... and also describes how the soldiers become used to the killing, whether they want to or not. Both his World War II and Vietnam series are must have for middle and high school libraries.
#1: The Right Fight (Roman, Army, Tunisia)
#2: Dead in the Water (Theo in Army air division, and Hank in the Navy)
#3: Alive and Kicking (Theo; Hank is missing)
Paulsen, Gary and Jim. Field Trip (Road Trip #2)
4 August 2015, Wendy Lamb Books
Book provided by Random House Children's Books
Reviewed at Young Adult Books Central
Ben's dad has done it yet again-- this time, he has decided to flip the house that Ben's family is living in! Ben wants to use this announcement to talk his parents into letting him enroll in an elite hockey boarding program, but they aren't having any of it. Instead, dad decides to take the "company car" (an old ice cream truck with a faded "cone of doom" on the top!) on another road trip. This time, he has arranged to meet up with Ben's school field trip and take two classmates, Jacob and Charlotte, with them. They also have Brig, who helps out with the business and sleeps in the ice cream truck, in tow, along with his weird snacks. (Beef jerky dipped in canned frosting, anyone?) Of course, the group gets distracted, first by a condemned house for sale, and then by a zombie movie in which Jacob manages to be an extra. Ben even manages to try out for the hockey school making his father angry, before the group camps overnight in the woods and visits the dog rescue facility from which Atticus, the older dog, was adopted. Along the way, the dogs opine about the proceedings, and everything works out in the end.
Strengths: I had somehow missed this one, but am glad to have it. Every year, I have a couple of boys obsessed with hockey, and this will be great to hand to them. The dogs' "opinions" are kept to one page per chapter, and are definitely amusing, with Atticus being cranky and Conor being an exuberant puppy. The short length, fast pace, and general goofiness of this one makes for great middle grade reading. Love that there is a light romance thrown in as well.
Weaknesses: I did not remember Ben's obsession with hockey from the first book, but it is not a bad thing that this can be read without the first book. One of our teachers does a Paulsen unit, and we get a bit desperate for books when 150 students need a Paulsen title!
What I really think: Much like Road Trip, this was fine but lacking in the slapstick comedic scenes that Paulsen does so well. The set up for it was perfect (ice cream van, weird food, dogs, cute girl), so I was a bit disappointed.