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Betty Hicks (Children's Literature)
During the war...it 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.
|Language||Call Number||LCCN||Dewey Decimal||ISBN/ISSN|
|English (eng)||PZ7.A953 Do 2001
0060292148 (lib. bdg.)|