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Eyes Like Willy's

Eyes Like Willy's

by Juanita Havill, David Johnson (Illustrator)

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It's the summer of , and Guy and Sarah Masson have traveled with their parents from Paris to a small resort village on Lake Constance, in Austria. What Guy thinks will be an ordinary vacation is transformed into one of discovery and delight when he and Sarah meet a ten-year-old Austrian boy, Willy Schiller. They swim and race their model sailboats in the lake,


It's the summer of , and Guy and Sarah Masson have traveled with their parents from Paris to a small resort village on Lake Constance, in Austria. What Guy thinks will be an ordinary vacation is transformed into one of discovery and delight when he and Sarah meet a ten-year-old Austrian boy, Willy Schiller. They swim and race their model sailboats in the lake, fight mock duels as knights through the woods, and play chess in their rooms when it rains, while Guy and Sarah plot how Willy can come back to Paris with them in the fall. The three become inseparable that first summer, and each year thereafter their friendship grows — until the summer of . Suddenly the world is at war, and these best of friends find themselves on opposing sides.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
A brother and sister from France and their Austrian friend Willy find ominous political events separating them, foiling their career plans, and finally forcing the boys onto the battlefields of World War I as enemy combatants. Willy, Guy, and Sarah have been friends since childhood, playing together each summer at an Austrian resort. The first decade of the 20th century was an optimistic era of thrilling technical achievements like the hydrogen-filled Zeppelins and the controversial Eiffel tower. The children's families are immune to the growing political divisions in Europe until Austria declares war on Serbia and then on France, Serbia's ally. Guy is studying to be a painter, but the war closes the Paris academy. On canvas he can preserve a peaceful scene forever, but he cannot slow the momentum of events tearing Europe apart. Some readers may find the novel's shift in narrative voice an impediment. The blunt, simple first half is suited to younger children whereas the mature voice of the later scenes appeals to older readers. In the gripping climax, Guy is injured and saves an Austrian soldier he believes to be Willy. The psychological burden of soldiers' long empty hours in the muddy frontline trenches, alternating with frantic assaults, is sensitively described and a highlight of the novel. After the war the three young people are reunited. Recommended. 2004, HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 8 up.
—Ann Philips <%ISBN%>0688136729
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Childhood friends are separated by tragic world events in this thoughtful World War I tale. Guy and Sarah live in Paris and vacation with their parents in Austria in the summer of 1906. There they make a fast friend in Willy, who is Austrian. The three children become inseparable and spend every summer vacation together. However, as Europe is drawn into the political turmoil leading to World War I, Guy and Willy, now young men, find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. Both become soldiers and fight for their countries, hoping to be reunited as friends someday. The story is told from Guy's point of view, from his childhood with Willy to his experiences as a soldier in the trenches. It follows a natural progression from the three characters' youthful innocence to a more mature, worldly wise voice. The pacing is quick and the depiction of war is not glossed over, but realistic and honest. The writing is spare; every word counts. Pair this memorable story with Theresa Breslin's Remembrance (2002) and Iain Lawrence's Lord of the Nutcracker Men (2003, both Delacorte) for different viewpoints of the era.-Kristen Oravec, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This WWI story poses an interesting question: what happens when enemies are also friends? In 1906, ten-year-old Guy, with his parents and little sister Sarah, spend their summer holiday in Bregenz, a lakeside resort in Austria. On the first morning, he meets Willy, an Austrian boy. Drawn by shared interests, they quickly become best friends, and each succeeding year's holiday deepens their relationship-until the summer of 1914, when the boys, now ready to enter university, find their vacation cancelled by the advent of war. Both enlist, on different sides. Havill, best known for picture books, struggles with characterization early on; Guy and Willy sound precocious, and their friendship is more told than shown. As the story progresses, though, it becomes steadily more believable; Guy's emotions when he sees a wounded Austrian who resembles Willy are heartfelt. Worth a look. (illustrations not seen) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.61(d)
710L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 Years

Read an Excerpt

Eyes Like Willy's

Chapter One

Summer Holiday:1906

Every summer in the month of August, Guy and hisfamily left Paris on holiday. When his little sister, Sarah, was a baby, they visited Grand-maman in her big stone house on a farm in Normandy. After Grand-maman died, they traveled to the seacoast for vacation or to the mountains. But the summer that Guy was ten, they rode the train all the way from Paris to a small village in Austria on the shores of Lake Constance. One of Papa's customers, an Austrian, had told them that they must go to Bregenz one summer, and so they did.

It was a long trip. They ate their meals in a dining car on the train, and slept in bunk beds that folded down above their seats in their compartment. After the midday meal, when Maman and Papa had fallen asleep, Guy and Sarah slipped out of the compartment and set off to walk the length of the train. As they neared the car at the end, the train rumbled louder and plunged into darkness. Sarah screamed and clung to Guy's arm.

"Don't be afraid, Sarah. We're going through a mountain. On the other side is Switzerland." He tried to sound brave, but the gloomy chill made him shiver. Sarah wouldn't let go of Guy until the train reached the end of the tunnel. They blinked in the bright daylight.

"I hope there aren't any more mountains or tunnels," Sarah said as they trudged back to their compartment.

"Of course there will be mountains—and lakes. Papa said that Austria is a country of mountains and lakes."

"I don't mind the lakes," Sarah said.

They slipped back into the compartment where their parents still napped. Sarah picked up her doll.

"Sophie, your bonnet has come untied." Sarahadjusted a small straw bonnet on the doll's porcelain head and tied it in place with a blue satin ribbon. "Were you scared, Sophie, when we went through the tunnel?" Sarah hugged her doll.

Guy checked his suitcase to make sure his model sailboat was safe. The boat, a gift from his father, left little room for his sketch pad and pencils, even though he had dismantled the blue sail and rolled it up beside the boat.

"I'm going to race Zéphyr on the lake," he told Sarah. "Papa says my boat will sail faster than all the others, and I think he's right."

At last the train approached the village station. Guy looked out at the lake in the distance. It was like the sea, much vaster than the pond in the Bois de Boulogne where he sailed Zéphyr. At the station, Guy wanted to bound from the train and run to the lake to launch his boat and watch it skim across the surface.

"Sarah, please gather Sophie's things," Maman said.

"Guy, let's go fetch a cab," Papa said. He turned to Maman. "Adrienne, we shall meet you there." He pointed to a line of benches in front of the station. Papa liked for everything to be organized, at his publishing business, at home, and even on vacation.

Half an hour later they had loaded the horse cab and squeezed onto the seats, and off they went. They arrived at the hotel and inspected their rooms—a sitting room, three bedrooms, and, at the end of the hall, a bathroom they shared with other guests. It was not nearly as grand as their apartment in Paris, but the flower pattern on the wallpaper and the lace curtains reminded Guy of home.

The next morning, even before they had completely unpacked their trunk, Guy persuaded Maman and Papa that what they all needed most was a stroll by the lake. Guy clutched Zéphyr under his arm and trotted off ahead of them.

"Wait for me," Sarah called. "I want to see Zéphyr go in the water."

Guy paused for Sarah to catch up; then they headed toward a crowd of people at the lakeshore. Model boats were already floating on the lake by the time they joined a group of children launching their boats. As soon as Zéphyr touched the water, the blue sail swelled, and it glided swiftly ahead of the others. Guy tingled with pride when he heard a murmur of awe from the people in the crowd.

"Steady, Zéphyr, steady. That's it. Now faster, faster," he whispered as he tried to follow on shore.

Sarah clapped. "Your boat is the fastest, Guy!"

But then a sleek boat with a red sail skimmed right beside Zéphyr and sped ahead. Speedy as she was, Zéphyr couldn't catch up with the red-sailed boat. Even before Guy could reach the pier where the boats were headed, the race was over.

"Not fair." Sarah groaned.

"Of course it's fair," Guy said. "Fair and square. The red one is faster, that's all." Guy tried to sound more cheerful than he felt. Still he couldn't help admiring the red sailboat.

"Let's find out who the boat belongs to." Guy ran to the pier to fetch Zéphyr. A black-haired boy was reaching toward the red sailboat. Guy rushed toward him, but a man stepped into his path. Guy tried to avoid the man, lost his balance, and crashed into the boy. Both of them toppled into the lake. Splashing, they regained their footing in the shallow water. The black-haired boy was laughing so hard that his eyes crinkled shut. Then he opened them. They were a warm brown color and almond shaped.

"He has friendly eyes," Sarah whispered to Guy when he climbed onto the bank. "He should be mad at you for knocking him into the lake." She stepped back from Guy and brushed at the water spots he was dripping on her dress.

Eyes Like Willy's. Copyright © by Juanita Havill. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Juanita Havill is the author of numerous children’s books including Jamaica's Find, a Reading Rainbow Review Book, IRA-CBC Children’s Choice, and winner of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer award. Ms. Havill lives in Sonoita, Arizona.

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