Sunday, April 11, 2021

The War and Millie McGonigle

Cushman, Karen. War and Millie McGonigle
April 6th 2021 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Millie lives with her parents, her sister Lily, and her brother Pete in San Diego in the 1940s. Her grandmother Tillie has passed away, and her father is finding it difficult to find work, so food and comforts are rare. The family takes in a cousin, Edna, who has some cognitive problems that lead to many bad choices, so supervision is helpful. Lily, who has lung problems, gets to keep her own bed, and Lily isn't happy about the extra person in the house. Millie has a journal her grandmother gave her, and has chosen to use it to record and draw the dead things that she finds on the beach. (There are a lot of these.) She has a confrontational relationahip with neighbor Dicky (Icky) Fribble, but is glad when his cousin and her mother move in. Rosie is older, and interested in boys and makeup, but the two get along quite well. After Pearl Harbor is bombed, Millie's father gets a job, but there is rationing, worries about the the war and spies, and drives for metal and rubber to use for the war effort. Since Millie is in California, she even gets a glimpse of the mistreatment of Japanese Americans when Mrs. Fribble tries to talk her mother in to going to a Japanese neighborhood to buy the displaced families' possession for cheap. As the US enters deeper in to war, Millie starts to make peace with her life after her grandmother. 
Strengths: California would have been a very interesting part of the world to be in at this time period, and there are great details about living near a beach. Millie has a lot on her plate, and her family situation is a bit precarious. The treatment of chronically ill children was much different in the 1940s. Food rationing, collecting scrap, and watching for planes were all things that children were involved in to further the war effort. My grandmother was of the mind that rationing wasn't necessary, but was implemented to make everyone feel like they had a part in sacrificing for the war effort, and she might not be far off. My mother and father would have been very close to Millie's age, and the story sounds very familiar! I did enjoy the children's literature of the time that Millie reads, and the fact that she asks the librarian for books about death and horrible things happening to people in order to make her own life seem better. 
Weaknesses: There was not as much of a plot as I would like, and I think Millie deals with the death of her grandmother in a particularly modern way. 
What I really think: I would love to see reissues of some World War II homefront books by authors who actually lived through this time period-- Lowry's Autumn Street, Peck's Wings of Heroes and Blume's Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself come to mind, and I'm surprised there is not an Ellen Conford title. 

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