Friday, March 30, 2012

Guy Friday-- Wars old and new

Calkhoven, Laurie. Michael at the Invasion of France, 1943.
Michael's family is in big trouble in Paris during WWII. His mother is American, which puts them all under suspicion, his father and brother are missing, and they are hungry and angry with the Nazis for occupying France. Michael begins to realize that his friend Jacques is working with the Resistance, and he wants to help as well. Instead of just irritating the Nazis, Michael helps to gets messages and forged documents to other collaborators, and helps to hide and take care of downed aviators. When some of the aviators need to escape the country, Michael is entrusted with helping them. Can he make his country, and his father, proud?
Strengths: Calkhoven's Boys of War Time series is just what many of my students want. There is a lot of research apparent in these titles (also Will at the Battle of Gettysburg and Daniel and the Siege of Boston), and there is just enough war action to make the readers happy. They are a good length, have great covers, and remind me, vaguely, of the We Were There books, in a good way. I will buy any that come out in this series!
Weaknesses: I was absolutely riveted when the Nazis came to take away neighbors and someone shoves the little girl into Michael's apartment and wants his family to hide her. That must have happened a fair amount, and how heart-stoppingly difficult must that have been. Unfortunately, the story line didn't cover much about how that panned out, and I was disappointed. I'll have to forgive Calkhoven, though; reading the blurb in the back where she admits to being intrigued by the Resistance made me feel not so awkward that I still, on rainy mornings, bike up hills thinking that I must get sensitive documents delivered!

Mazer, Harry and Peter Lerangis. Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am.
Things are going well for Ben Bright. He’s got a good role in the school play, has a girlfriend, and generally excels in everything. When he enlists in the Army right after high school, his parents are devastated, especially when he gets sent to Iraq right away. While there, he is gravely injured when the Humvee in which he is riding is blown up by a Tickle-Me-Elmo bomb. The worst of his injuries are to the brain, and he slowly begins to recover. His family, especially his autistic brother, Chris, rally around and try to help him through this difficult time.
Strengths: This book has an appealing cover, is short and interesting enough for the target audience, and addresses a modern concern in a straight forward fashion.
Weaknesses: The part of the book where Ben is in Iraq is only 20 pages long, and there are many of my boys begging for books set in the middle of military conflicts, so this was disappointing.

Harry Mazer wrote the Boy at War series, which is hugely popular in my library, as well as The Last Mission. (Which is really good but does have some salty language.) His experiences in World War II clearlyhad a profound effect upon his life. The Solid Gold Kid is another title that circulates fairly well even though the copy I have has so much glue and tape on it that I am surprised each time it returns in one piece! I am glad to see that Mazer is still writing. I was very sad when I heard that his wife, Norma Fox Mazer, passed away in 2009. She was very kind, and once replied to a letter I wrote her with information about a writing workshop where she taught. It is a big regret of mine that I never got to attend that and learn from her.

1 comment:

  1. I liked Michael at the Invasion of France a lot. I also like the Harry Mazer books and am glad to hear they are popular at your library. Also sorry to hear Norma Fox Mazer passed away, she was a good writer in her own right.