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Children's Literature Reviews
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Don't you know there's a war on?
Publisher description
New York : HarperCollins, c2001.
200 p. ; 22 cm.


In wartime Brooklyn in 1943, eleven-year-old Howie Crispers mounts a campaign to save his favorite teacher from being fired.

Best Books:

Best Children's Books of the Year, 2002 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2002 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Eighth Edition, 2002 ; H.W. Wilson; United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award Reading List, 2003-2004 ; Nominee; Arkansas
Virginia Young Readers Program, 2003-2004 ; Nominee; Middle (Grades 6-9); Virginia

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Middle Grade
Book Level 3.6
Accelerated Reader Points 4
Accelerated Vocabulary

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 3-5
Reading Level 5
Title Point Value 8
Lexile Measure 500


Hazel Rochman (Booklist, Jun. 1, 2001 (Vol. 97, No. 19))
The war at home is both setting and story in this affectionate comedy told in the immediate voice of Howie Crispers, who looks back a few years to 1943 when he was 11 and living in Brooklyn, New York. Howie has a crush on his wonderful teacher, Miss Gossim, and he's horrified to discover, while spying on the hateful school principal, that Miss Gossim is to be fired. Howie and his best friend have always imagined that the principal was a Nazi spy, but they don't know why Miss Gossim has to go. The spying and the secrets add to the fun, but this is mostly a story about the daily life of kids on the home front. Every chapter begins with a page of dramatic newspaper headlines about the war, which provide context for Howie's worries about his dad fighting in Europe; Howie knows families who have lost loved ones. The times described are hard, but Avi keeps the storytelling light, with fast dialogue and lots of lively detail about a time when grown-ups went away and "it was kids who had the job of trying to keep things normal. Know what I'm saying?" Like Avi's Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway? (1992), this is not so much about war as about ordinary life. Category: Books for Middle Readers--Fiction. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95, $15.89. Gr. 4-7.

Betty Hicks (Children's Literature)
During the was us kids who had the job of trying to keep things normal." These are the words of sixteen-year-old Howie looking back five years to his life at Public School Number Eight in Brooklyn in 1943. The ordinary memories of the 40s--Junior G-Men, the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ovaltine--are juxtaposed with not-so-ordinary war headlines, the necessity for scrap metal collection and the threat of unwelcome telegrams. Howie's innocent lust for his beautiful teacher is as timeless as the home front setting is specific, giving the worries of wartime a refreshing perspective alongside the daily predicaments of being eleven. Howie is an honorable and likeable kid who stumbles on a secret that is just too good to keep, though he tries mightily. His voice is fresh with the wholesomeness of 40s slang and the ageless irreverence of just being a boy. Especially well-crafted are lifelike dialogues that zip with brevity and wit that will keep readers grinning. As Howie schemes to prevent the firing of his favorite teacher, readers will discover how different it was growing up in the wartime 40s, and delight in the things that have remained the same. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 8 to 12.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Sixteen-year-old Howie Crispers narrates Avi's (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle) poignant, funny coming-of-age tale set in Brooklyn during WWII. For the facts, readers can consult Stephen E. Ambrose's excellent volume (reviewed below), but for a flavor of everyday life on the homefront, they will appreciate Howie's recollections of his experiences as a fifth grader during one pivotal week in March 1943. The hero juggles everything from failing math grades and air raid blackouts to a crush on his teacher and worries about his merchant marine father, criss-crossing the North Atlantic. Howie also suspects his principal of being a Nazi spy, and follows him into a brownstone one morning where he overhears plans to fire his beloved teacher, Miss Rolanda Gossim (he thinks of her at night when fear overtakes him: "She was my emergency brake, my life raft, my parachute, my own private rescue squad"). How he "saves" Miss Gossim makes for a smashing story enlivened by the added emotional texture of a boy dealing with wartime realities (particularly the death of his "bestest" friend Denny's father) and romance (Miss Gossim is actually married to a missing airman and pregnant). Howie's voice, firmly rooted in Brooklyn ("You'd feel worse than a Giants fan in Ebbets Field," he says of disappointing Miss Gossim), takes on the inflections and slang of the era. The novel ends on an upbeat note, with 16-year-old Howie celebrating the end of the war and still carrying a torch for Miss Gossim. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)

Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 2001 (Vol. 54, No. 9))
At the ripe old age of sixteen, narrator Howie Crispers looks back to 1943 when he was a naïve Brooklyn youth of ten and in love (or at least deeply in like) with his teacher, Miss Gossim. Howie accidentally overhears the school principal insist that Miss Gossim be fired, and inspired by wartime talk of spies and heroes, he embarks on his own campaign of espionage to discover the secret that’s landed her in hot water (she’s pregnant and secretly married) and to rescue her career. Howie’s quest proceeds so smoothly that it generates but little tension. Moreover, in casting Howie as a sixteen-year-old (circa 1949), Avi introduces the nagging problem of why the narrator needs to apprise his hypothetical audience of wartime details they should already know. Still, homefront activities are intriguing, Howie’s a character with considerable warmth and heart, and Miss Gossim’s every fifth grader’s dream teacher--humorous, patient, compassionate, and fair (not to mention beautiful and blonde). Pair this with Bunting’s Spying on Miss Müller (BCCB 3/95) for different takes on homefront espionage. (Reviewed from galleys) Review Code: Ad -- Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. (c) Copyright 2001, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2001, HarperCollins, 208p, $15.89 and $15.95. Grades 5-8.

Candice Bonds (The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 14, No. 1))
DON'T YOU KNOW THERE'S A WAR ON? is told from the perspective of sixteen-year-old Howie Crispers. The story centers on his fifth-grade year in school during World War II. Howie's narrative is told in Brooklyn slang, grammatical errors included. Miss Gossim is Howie's fifth-grade teacher. Howie has an adolescent crush on her, with which male readers will be able to identify. What makes the book interesting is the author's ability to show the reader how things were in America during World War II. Ranging from fathers killed in action, to nightly blackouts, to looking for spies, Avi hits just the right note between respect for those whose lives were changed by the war and the reality of day-to-day living, as told humorously by Howie. This book could be enjoyed by boys and girls, but boys would especially relate to Howie's adventures and his unique perspective as unusual events unfold. The characters are believable, and their struggles are real. Fiction. Grades 5-6. 2001, HarperCollins, 200p, $15.89. Ages 10 to 12.

Kevin Beach (VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2))
Buying a book by Avi is probably a given for most libraries, and this one does not disappoint. Eleven-year-old Brooklynite Howard narrates the sad but exciting days on the home front during World War II. Howie and his best friend, Denny, both have fathers who are away fightin"war, and the boys do their part by collecting scraps for the war effort. They spend their school days reading comic books, sharing a crush on their teacher, Miss Gossim, and imagining that certain people, especially their principal, are Nazi spies. Then Howie tails the suspicious principal and discovers while eavesdropping that he is planning to fire Miss Gossim. He soon uncovers the reason for her dismissal and learns that she sorely misses her husband, also in the war. As good-hearted Howie struggles with math tests, follows the war in the newspaper, and joins his friends for the Saturday matinee, he also is determined to save Miss Gossim's job. A plan soon emerges, and there are many surprises, both poignant and happy, before the end of the novel. Avi has written more than twenty books for children and young adults, and in this one he creates a realistic slice of life from America's war years. It should prove both entertaining and educational to upper elementary and middle school readers. PLB $15.89. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, HarperCollins, 208p, $15.95. Ages 11 to 15.


World War, 1939-1945--United States Fiction.
Schools Fiction.
Teacher-student relationships Fiction.
World War, 1939-1945--United States Juvenile fiction.
Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.A953 Do 2001
00046102 [Fic]
0060292148 (lib. bdg.)
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