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Children's LiteratureA 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