Don't You Know There's a War On?by Avi
World War II is on everyone's mind and in every headline, and Howie Crispers has a hunch that his school principal is a spy. With a little snooping around, Howie finds out something even more alarming. Principal Lomister may not be a spy, but he is plotting to get rid of Howie's favorite teacher. Howie's dad is fighting Nazis overseas, and his mom is working hard… See more details below
World War II is on everyone's mind and in every headline, and Howie Crispers has a hunch that his school principal is a spy. With a little snooping around, Howie finds out something even more alarming. Principal Lomister may not be a spy, but he is plotting to get rid of Howie's favorite teacher. Howie's dad is fighting Nazis overseas, and his mom is working hard to support the war effort, so Miss Gossim is the only person Howie can depend on. With the help of his friends, and a plan worthy of radio show superhero Captain Midnight, Howie intends to save Miss Gossim!
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.41(d)
- Age Range:
- 8 - 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
I was late that Monday morning because my shoelace broke just as I was leaving for school. Meant I had to use some string. Now, you might think string would be easy to find, but it wasn't. String was something you gave away for the war effort. Besides, my sister had already left for school and my mother was at her job at the Navy Yard. Those days me and my family lived in Brooklyn. During the war. When I was eleven.
Like I was saying, I was supposed to be going to school. Class Five-B, Public School Number Eight. P.S. 8, we called it. The school's real name was The Robert Fulton School, but I never heard no kid call it that.
Anyway, by the time I finally got going down Hicks Street, I was so late no kids were there. Just grown-ups wearing big coats and dark hats. Me? I was dressed in my regular school outfit: bomber jacket, brown corduroy pants, plaid flannel shirt, and a snap-on glossy red necktie that almost reached my middle. Hanging round my neck was what we called a dog tag. Sort of this tin disk with your name and address stamped on it. All us kids had to wear them. You know, in case the enemy attacked like at Pearl Harbor and people wanted to know who your body was.
The name on my tag was Howard Bellington Crispers. But the thing was, the only person who ever used my full name was my mom. And see, she only did when she was mad at me. So mostly people called me Howie. Which worried me, because it wasn't on my tag. I mean, how were they going to identify me if my name wasn't right? By my looks?
Back then I wasn't very tall. But my ears were big, plus I had the same old blue eyes and carrot-colored hair. Though Mom wasalways making me brush that hair down, it never stood flat. And no matter how much I was in front of the bathroom mirror pressing my ears back, they didn't stay flat neither. These days, being sixteen, I'm taller, but to tell the truth, the hair and the ears, they haven't changed much.
The other thing, that morning it felt like it was going to rain. Which meant my shoes--with the string lace--might get wet. Not so jazzy because, like everybody, we had ration coupons for only three pairs of shoes a year. For the whole family. The point being, you did what you had to do because in those days, no matter what happened, you could always say, "Hey, don't you know there's a war on?" See, it explained anything.
So anyway, there I was, going down Hicks Street carrying my pop's beat-up wooden lunch box. Inside was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white Tip Top bread wrapped in paper, plus a graham-cracker snack and this dinky bottle of Borden's chocolate milk. My left hand was holding a canvas satchel with my schoolbooks.
This Hicks Street was narrow, squeezed tight by three-story brownstone houses with stoops. The neighborhood also had some old wooden houses, plus apartment buildings. My family lived in one of them apartments, a narrow third-floor walk-up with four small rooms. That included the kitchen complete with a few of your regular Brooklyn cockroaches. Didn't bother me. Everyone had 'em.
Them days, go along Brooklyn streets and you'd see tons of little flags with big blue stars in front windows. The flags were saying your family had someone in the war. Some windows had more than one star. There were gold stars too. Gold meant your someone had been killed.
There was this blue star in our window because my pop was in the merchant marine. He sailed in the convoys going 'cross the North Atlantic bringing war supplies to our troops and allies. That meant we never knew where he was. When he wrote--wasn't often--his letters were censored. Which was because, like people said, "Loose lips sink ships." And let me tell you something--it was true too. Tons of ships were torpedoed by German subs. Wolf packs, they called them. And sailors--gobs of 'em--drowned. So I worried about Pop. A lot.
Oh, sure, I'd see him for a few days every couple of months. But it was always a surprise when he came. He'd be dirty, red eyed, needing a shave, and you wouldn't believe how tired. Most of his leave he just slept, except when he got up to eat apples. He loved apples. Ate 'em like they'd just been invented. Core and all, only spitting out the pips.
When his time was up, he'd sail off. We didn't know where. I don't think Pop knew. Anyway, we weren't supposed to ask.
Still, I was better off than my best friend, Duane Coleman, who we called Denny. This Denny, he never saw his pop 'cause his father--a tailor--was an Eighth Army GI. That's General Infantry. The Eighth was fighting Rommel, the Nazi general, in North Africa. No saying when Mr. Coleman would be home. If he came home. All us kids were scared of getting one of them telegrams from the government that began, "regret to inform you that..."
Now, I was small, but Denny was smaller. I mean, the guy was waiting for his growth spurt like Dodger fans waited for a pennant. You know, "Wait till next year!"
Denny always had this serious look on his face. Maybe it was his wire-frame glasses, which not a lot of kids wore. Or his slicked-back black hair. Or the white shirt and the bow tie he was always wearing. Red suspenders too. Straps, we called them...Don't You Know There's a War On?. Copyright © by John Avi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Avi is the author of more than sixty books, including Crispin: The Cross of Lead, a Newbery Medal winner, and Crispin: At the Edge of the World. His other acclaimed titles include The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth, both Newbery Honor Books, and most recently The Seer of Shadows. He lives with his family in Colorado.
- Date of Birth:
- December 23, 1937
- Place of Birth:
- New York, New York
- University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
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