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

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

4.5 12
by Avi

View All Available Formats & Editions

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!

Editorial Reviews

Children’s Literature Newletter for Adults
“Well crafted dialogues zip with brevity and will keep readers grinning.”
School Library Joumal
“This quick–moving, easily read story will be enjoyed by many readers.”
Children's Literature Newletter for Adults
"Well crafted dialogues zip with brevity and will keep readers grinning."
ALA Booklist
“…fast dialogue and lots of lively detail.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Fast–paced, conversational and full of surprises.”
Queens Parent
“Chock full of details from the 1940s home front.”
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
“A realistic slice of life from America’s war years.”
Children’s Literature Newletter for Adults
“Well crafted dialogues zip with brevity and will keep readers grinning.”
Howie's a character with considerable warmth and heart....Pair this with Bunting's Spying On Miss Muller for different takes on homefront espionage.
Publishers Weekly
The 16-year-old narrator juggles everything from failing math grades and air raid blackouts to a crush on his teacher and worries about his merchant marine father crossing the North Atlantic, in this "poignant, funny coming of age tale set in Brooklyn during WWII," said PW in a starred review. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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 fighting·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 . 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, . Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Kevin Beach SOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
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, Ovaltine¾are 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. Reviewer: Betty Hicks
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-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.

Read More

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.41(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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.

Read More

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.

Brief Biography

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

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >