Young Adult Literature


Don't You Know There's a War On?
by Avi


From School Library Journal
Howard Bellington Crispers looks back from his 16-year-old perspective to 1943 when he grappled with issues of friendship, fear, love, and loss. At age 11, Howie and his friend Denny share a crush on their teacher and they suspect their principal is a Nazi spy. However, in a sleuthing expedition, Howie learns that the principal's real perfidy hits closer to home-he is urging the firing of Miss Gossim. Howie visits his teacher and she tells him the reason for her pending dismissal-she is secretly married to an army pilot and is pregnant. Taking up her cause and disregarding his promise to keep her secret, Howie circulates a petition to stop the firing, embarrassing the young woman but securing her a reprieve until the end of the school year. Avi packs the story with authentic details of World War II in Brooklyn, NY, augmented by newspaper headlines. He peppers it with funny scenes, lots of slang dialogue between the boys, and a keen sensitivity to the adolescent psyche. Layered into the plot is the drama of the boys' absent fathers. Howie's returns but Denny's is killed, and the bittersweet ending reflects the protagonist's regret over losing Denny's friendship when his own family moves to Long Island. Though lacking in originality, this quick-moving, easily read story will be enjoyed by many readers. A more serious, complex, and in-depth treatment of a similar theme can be found in Janet Taylor Lisle's beautifully wrought The Art of Keeping Cool (Atheneum, 2000).
Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.