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

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"Seen through the eyes of a young boy, these [are] strikingly faithful memories of the home front during World War II....The boy wants to help win the war; he collects tin foil and tin cans, buys war stamps, and plants a victory garden....But anxious times to come, too. His father goes into the army, and the boy misses him terribly....Stevenson is adept at presenting the unsettling mixture of the humorous, the day-to-day, and the serious moments....A splendid evocation of the past; a wonderful book....for ...
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Overview

"Seen through the eyes of a young boy, these [are] strikingly faithful memories of the home front during World War II....The boy wants to help win the war; he collects tin foil and tin cans, buys war stamps, and plants a victory garden....But anxious times to come, too. His father goes into the army, and the boy misses him terribly....Stevenson is adept at presenting the unsettling mixture of the humorous, the day-to-day, and the serious moments....A splendid evocation of the past; a wonderful book....for everyone to share."—Horn Book.

Author Biography: James Stevenson is a prolific author of picture books, poetry, and young adult novels. His work is read and loved by readers of all ages.

The author recalls his efforts to win the Second World War, including planting a victory garden, collecting tin foil, and looking for spies.

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Editorial Reviews

Bulletin
Howie's a character with considerable warmth and heart....Pair this with Bunting's Spying On Miss Muller for different takes on homefront espionage.
Children's Literature Newletter for Adults
Well crafted dialogues zip with brevity and will keep readers grinning.
Queens Parent
Chock full of details from the 1940s home front.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Fast–paced, conversational and full of surprises.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This nostalgic tale by the talented New Yorker artist is more bittersweet than his previous reminiscences ( When I Was Nine ; Higher on the Door ; July ), and, as a result, is more touching. Told in Stevenson's trademark ingenuous first-person style, the story opens in 1942, when the young narrator's requests for a ride to the movies or a candy bar are answered with the oft-heard question posed in the book's title. Insisting that ``I tried to help win the war,'' the boy chronicles his well-intentioned efforts, which include planting a victory garden, saving foil, writing a newspaper and searching for spies among the neighbors. Although matters become a bit scary when his father goes off to join the Army, the boy and his mother have a chance to visit him at Christmas, and finally greet him at the train station once the war is over. Sly humor adds immeasurably to this winning study, while distinctive pastel shades fill Stevenson's inviting, typically sketchy watercolors. The art and the endearingly personal text evoke the past in the affecting manner that Stevenson has perfected. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Beverly Kobrin
In the fourth of his autobiographical gems, Don't You Know There's A War On? James Stevenson recalls the 1940s with the wonderful innocence of the elementary grader he then was: the annoyance of gas and food rationing and blackouts; the excitement of a search for "saboteurs" in the neighborhood; the emptiness of a brother away in the navy and dad in the army. Mr. Stevenson's watercolors, appropriately detail-less, are as fuzzy as most memories of times past but they couldn't be clearer to those of us who were also children in America during World War Two.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-- These reminiscences illustrate how a young American boy felt in 1942 surrounded by World War II. Small watercolor pictures float on white pages, making this a scrapbook of memories. The single objects and simplified scenes reduce the war to child-size and make its enormity manageable. Gas coupons, rationing, and air-raid wardens make their appearances. This is one boy's particular story, another chapter to follow When I Was Nine (1986), Higher on the Door (1987) and July (1990, all Greenwillow), but it is one shared by many grandparents, parents, teachers , and librarians who will enjoy using this book to show the way things were. --Anna Biagioni Hart, Sherwood Regional Library, Alexandria, VA
Hazel Rochman
. Stevenson remembers what it was like to be a child in a small town in the U.S. during World War II. His combination of casual, poetic text and small, blurry watercolor sketches, several to a page, creates an exquisite memoir that also communicates what it's like to remember. There were no heroics in this place so far from the battlefront, and he gently mocks the ordinary kids' romance of spies and secrets. Pompous adults used the wartime economy to keep kids in line ("Don't you know there's a war on?"), but in fact, the war was far away. Everyone grew a lot of kale in their victory gardens ("It tasted awful"), and kids tried without success to distinguish enemy planes. What was real to him, what hurt, was that his father went away. Stevenson communicates that parting with quiet intensity. The small boy is thrilled that his father asks him to go for a walk ("We didn't go for walks / together very often"), but in that moment of rare intimacy he learns that his father's going away to join the army. All on its own on a page, a picture shows the boy and his mother waving at his father on the retreating train. The reunion with his father at the Florida army base and finally at the station when he comes home at last are the only other scenes that stand alone on a page. In between, lots of small pictures express the general humdrum days. They also show the boy's longing as he looks and looks at the things his father left behind and sees clearly the individual items that are no longer there ("No toothbrush"). With all that's not said and shown, this memoir leaves space for us to imagine. This would be a great book to share across generations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688113834
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.29 (w) x 10.16 (h) x 0.39 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2002

    Wonderful Remembrance

    This book has beautiful illustrations and tells what it was like for children during WWII. I enjoy reading it to my students.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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