Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harborby Harry Mazer
December 7, 1941: A morning like any other, but the events of this day would leave no one untouched.
For Adam, living near Honolulu, this Sunday morning is one he has been looking forward to fishing with friends, away from the ever-watchful eyes of his father, a navy lieutenant. Then, right before his eyes, Adam watches Japanese planes fly/i>… See more details below
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December 7, 1941: A morning like any other, but the events of this day would leave no one untouched.
For Adam, living near Honolulu, this Sunday morning is one he has been looking forward to fishing with friends, away from the ever-watchful eyes of his father, a navy lieutenant. Then, right before his eyes, Adam watches Japanese planes fly overhead and attack the U.S. Navy. All he can think is that it's just like in the movies. But as he sees his father's ship, the Arizona, sink beneath the water, he realizes this isn't make-believe. It's real.
Over the next few days, Adam searches for answers about his friends, the war, and especially, his father. But Adam soon learns sometimes there are no answers.
- Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.30(d)
- Age Range:
- 10 - 14 Years
Meet the Author
Harry Mazer is the author of many books for young readers, including Please, Somebody Tell Me Who I Am; My Brother Abe; the Boy at War trilogy; The Wild Kid; The Dog in the Freezer; The Island Keeper; and Snow Bound. His books have won numerous honors, including a Horn Book honor and an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults citation. Along with his wife, Norma Fox Mazer, Harry received an ALAN award in 2003 for outstanding contribution to adolescent literature. He lives in Montpelier, Vermont.
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Read an Excerpt
"Look," Bea said, holding up her stuffed animal. It was Saturday morning and she was sitting on Adam's bed. "Bear says good morning to Adam."
Bea was still in her nightgown. She slept in an alcove in a corner of their parents' room. Adam's room was off the kitchen. The model planes he'd built hung from the ceiling. They were never still.
Bea pushed her teddy bear in his face. "Bear says time to kiss." Adam put down the model plane he'd been maneuvering and gave Bear an extra-loud kiss. "Stop it." She pinched his nose. "Do you want to play?"
"Surely, little girl." He gave her his newest Japanese fighter plane. "It's called a Zero, and this game is called dogfight."
"I don't like dogs who fight."
"It's not dogs fighting, it's planes fighting each other the way they do it in a war. This is the way we play. You're high, against the sun, so I can't see you till the last second, and you come out of the sun, shooting down at me."
"You don't shoot your brother."
"It's only a game." He moved her arm so her plane was above his. "Make believe you're going to shoot me."
"I can do it," she said, pushing his hand away. "You don't have to show me. Bap! Bap! Bap!"
"Good! See how you're behind me, on my tail? It looks bad for me, but watch this." He sent his navy Corsair into a rolling dive and came back up under the Zero. "You see that? I just blew your plane into a thousand pieces."
"You did not." Bea held her plane up triumphantly. "See, you missed me."
"Okay, test time," he said. "What's the Punchbowl?"
"Where we live."
"Do you know it's a dead -- "
"Volcano! I know that already."
"Do you know that Hawaii is built on all dead volcanoesthat came out of the ocean?"
"You told me." She yawned, patting her mouth. "That is so boring."
He picked up another model plane with square-tipped wings. "What's this plane called?"
"I don't know. No fair."
"Grumman Wildcat. It's the navy fighter plane. And this one here, next to it, is a P-40 Curtiss Warhawk. It's the army fighter, and this one's a German Messerschmitt Me 109."
"Which plane is the best?"
"The American planes are always the best."
"We always win," Bea said.
"Hello..." Their mother looked in. "Anybody home? It's time for breakfast."
"We're playing dogfight," Bea said. "Bap, bap, bap! I won, Mommy."
"Is it really time for breakfast, Mom?" Adam asked.
"It's almost time for lunch, kiddo. Let's clear the decks and get this bunk ready for inspection."
When his father was home, their house was a ship. The floors were decks, beds were bunks, windows were portholes, the kitchen was the galley, and if Adam said "bathroom," his father said, "I think you mean the head."
"Your father sees this mess, you're in for a lecture," his mother said.
"And maybe a sock on the behind," Bea said. "And you're going to cry and cry."
"Let me remind you, little girl," Adam said, "boys don't cry."
He lifted her off his bunk, then made it navy style, by the book, everything taut, hospital corners, no wrinkles. His father was still asleep, so his mother would do the inspection. It was their regular Saturday-morning ritual, whether his father was here or not.
When he was ready, he called her, then stood by the door. His mother did a tough inspection. There was always some place he'd forgotten to dust. It was the shelf in the closet this time. When his father did the inspection, he'd bounce a quarter on the bunk and if it didn't bounce high enough for him to catch, Adam would have to tear the bunk apart and make it over again.
After his mother had finished the inspection and he had wiped the shelf, she interrogated him exactly as his father did, even deepening her voice. "Do you appreciate that you have a room of your own, sailor?"
"Yes, sir, I do!"
"I didn't have a room of my own when I was a boy, sailor."
"No, sir, I know that."
His mother stood at attention. She enjoyed this little game they played. "All I ever got for Christmas was a pair of itchy red socks. No model airplanes, no Raleigh racers."
"No, sir," he said. "I know that, sir!"
"Are you thankful for what you have?"
"Yes, sir, I am. I know that I'm one fortunate son of a gun. And I have to give back, I know that, too. Yes, sir, I am a grateful boy."
"Are you mocking me, sailor?"
"That's going to get you six months of KP, sailor."
In the kitchen a few minutes later, his mother put the yellow cornflakes box on the table with a bowl and a banana. Bea was on the floor playing with Bear. "I want Jell-O, please," she said. Koniko, their Japanese maid, didn't work on the weekends, although she'd be in later to baby-sit Bea. Adam and his parents were going to the movies.
Adam peeled the banana. "What was Dad like when he was my age, Mom?"
"He was a farm boy, and he had to work terribly, terribly hard. If there was work to be done, he got up at five every morning before school. A lot of times he never made it to school. He was the oldest, and your grandpa needed him on the farm. Grandpa couldn't do a lot with just one arm."
Adam's grandfather Pelko had lost an arm in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. That arm ended just below the elbow. He usually kept a sock over the stump. He could always make Adam jump by wriggling the bare stump in his face.
"Dad ran away from home, didn't he?"
Adam knew the answer, but this was the thing about his father that most fascinated him. His father, so disciplined, so regular, so sober, was once free enough -- or wild enough -- that he left his family and took to the road. Fourteen years old, Adam's age. He had thought about that a lot. That was really brave.
His mother emptied the contents of a Jell-O package into a bowl. "Your father ran away, but he wasn't a bad kid. He joined the navy -- "
" -- And lied about his age," Adam said.
"Your father doesn't lie! I don't like the way you said that, Adam."
"Sorry," he said.
She poured boiling water over the Jell-O. "It wasn't the same as real lying. He wanted the navy. He needed a home. Sometimes life forces you to do things. We don't know how hard his life was, Adam. We can't even imagine it. He had to work like a man from the time he was eight years old. You will never have to make the choices he did."
She stirred the Jell-O. "And what he's accomplished, the position of trust and authority that he's risen to, everything he's achieved -- he did it all by himself. He came up from nothing. Your father -- I have to say it -- your father is an admirable man. Really, a great man."
"Maybe he'll be admirable of the fleet someday."
A flip remark. It just sprang out of his mouth. He really agreed with his mother, his father was admirable, but there was something about his being so admirable that, well, scared Adam. Would he ever be capable of doing what his father did? Could he ever be even half the man his father was?
If his mother caught the admirable pun, she didn't let on. "There might be a war," she said. She refilled the teakettle.
"War with Japan?" he asked.
"Yes." She sighed. "Nobody wants it, but -- "
"Dad wants it."
"What do you mean 'Dad wants it'? What kind of thing is that to say, Adam?"
"I mean that's his job, Mom. That's what all the training exercises are about. Don't worry, we're ready for them."
"Ready is one thing, war is something else."
"You don't have to worry, Mom. There's nothing safer than a battleship. If war comes, Dad's going to be okay."
He made his hand into a gun. War was exciting. It was action. It was ships, planes, and guns. It was being faster and smarter than your enemy. It was defending your country.
"Dad says all that talk in Washington is a waste of time. The Japs want to push us out of the Pacific, but if they try, we're going to knock their heads off."
"Don't say 'Jap,'" his mother said. "It's vulgar."
He put his bowl in the sink. He just hoped that if war came, it wouldn't be over too soon. "I'm going out now," he said.
"Get me some papayas first," his mother said.
He stepped out into the garden. The grass was wet and tickled his bare feet. It was December, and there were flowers in the bushes and bird sounds in the air, and everywhere there was the smell of summer. A big, ugly toad sat under the papaya tree. Adam inched his foot toward it. "Buffo," he said, and it jumped away.
He picked a few papayas and brought them in to his mother. "I'll be back at 1800."
"Where are you going?"
Where was he going? He didn't know. "I'm just going to poke around."
"Be home on time. You know your father."
"Don't worry, Mom, I'll be here."
Text copyright © 2001 by Harry Mazer
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