Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Two War Books

Sonya Hartnett's The Silver Donkey is set during World War I and follows the story of a blinded soldier trying to make his way home. He is found and helped by two sisters and a brother, who feed him and try to get him to where he is traveling. He amuses them by telling them stories involving donkeys, since his good luck charm is a donkey. A bit vague in the details, this is a lyrical book, and beautifully bound. It is gentle and sweet, and shows that bravery and loyalty are good qualities. Parents and critics will love it. Middle school students won't.

What they really want is what H.R. DeMallie delivers beautifully in Behind Enemy Lines: A Yound Pilot's Story. This covers his enlistment and training on how to fly a B-17 bomber (with a diagram! Map!), then the fateful air battle, in riveting detail, that caused him and his crew to parachute into occupied Holland. From there, DeMallie survived with the help of the people of Holland but was eventually captured and spent the remainder of the war as a POW.

Written using notes that the author kept in 1945, this is raw, immediate, and gives the authentic detail of a real WWII experience that my boys crave. The language is not elegant ("Gee, I was hungry.), but I was riveted by the fact that this was a real story, one that was no doubt repeated time and again. Sterling Point Books, the publisher, has several other volumes of memoirs out that I am looking quite seriously into buying. This will NEVER be on the shelf. Buy two.

On page 8 there is a wonderful quote: "Someone once said "Young men enlist in the service during war time primarily for adventure." I will try to remember that this is why they like to read books about war as well.

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