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Posted July 4, 2014
Reviewed by Alle Wells for Readers' Favorite
Susan Violante tells the captivating story of her father’s childhood experiences during World War II. Innocent War gives an unusual account of a well-known war that begins in Tripoli. Nino, a young Italian boy, is barely ten years old when his father is sent away to fight in Mussolini’s army. In his father’s absence, Nino hangs around the military camps and strikes a deal with the Italian and German soldiers to help feed his family. When the school is bombed and the city becomes increasingly more dangerous, Nino’s mother leaves her home, with two children in tow, in search of her husband. Over the next four years, they embark on a remarkable journey as the family continually seeks shelter and safety. Each new home presents challenges and opportunities for Nino’s adventurous spirit. He learns a valuable lesson when his crafty survival skills lead to danger for himself and others.
Via Nino’s eyes, Ms. Violante guides us through a desert dust storm, the rocky Mediterranean coastline, colorful villages of Sicily and dark images of Italy’s cities destroyed by the ravages of war. Nino’s passage from childlike innocence to a coming of age awakening relates to the fiery youth within all of us. Innocent War provides an insightful look into life along the Mediterranean during the German occupation in World War II. Nino’s story intimately portrays the economic, social and emotional impact that warfare has on its innocent victims. I highly recommend this historical read for middle school teachers and their students.
Posted August 24, 2012
Susan Violante’s “Innocent War” is a surprising look at World War II
from the perspective of a young Italian boy growing up in Libya and
Sicily, a boy who happens to be the author’s father. Violante has
written this novel based on recordings made by her father about his
life, recordings that surprised her and made her see her father in a new
way. And she found her father’s story so interesting that she decided to
share it with others, as she states in the Foreword: “I wrote a book to
get to know my father, and in the process I got to know myself. This
didn’t come without hardship, loneliness, disappointment, and
frustration as I set myself to break the circle of silence between
parents and their sons and daughters.” Furthermore, Violante has
dedicated the book to “my parents and to those who, during their
childhood, were cheated, lied to, and cowardly abused by those who
promote false ideals; and that once they had discovered the truth were
able to react and learn to build a new life.” The false ideals and lies
she refers to become apparent in this tale of Nino, a ten to fifteen
year old boy from 1940-1945, who goes from looking forward to the day he
can wear an Italian soldier’s uniform to realizing everything he has
been taught in his textbooks at school about Americans has been lies. As
the war progresses, he will come to meet American soldiers and realize
how the war has destroyed lives. I found “Innocent War” to be
refreshing because while I’ve read lots of books about World War II that
focus on the war in Britain, Germany, France, and even Italy, this book
takes place largely in Libya, and then later in Sicily. Nino lives
through the bombing of Tripoli and then moves with his mother and little
sister to Zaitan where his dad is helping to dig a trench to stop
invasions by the Allied forces. Later, the Italians in Tripoli are
evacuated to Sicily where they experience more bombings and eventually
the American invasion. While World War II is central to the novel,
“Innocent War” is also a coming-of-age story of a boy undergoing puberty
and learning how to be a man, feeling his first desires for women,
wanting to defend his mother and sister, and experiencing loss through
his Jewish neighbors being taken away and his friends being killed in
bombings. A journey through the desert on a camel, a sandstorm, constant
air attacks and fears of invasion, and finally Nino’s learning to build
his own detonators all provide plenty of variety and excitement
throughout the book. I regretted only that the book ended without
telling more of Nino’s story—but a sequel is coming. Even the occasional
typos did not distract me from reading the entire book in one morning
and being left wanting more. As a writer of historical fiction myself
who often draws on family history, I found “Innocent War” to be a
compelling start to what is a planned series of books about Violante’s
father—the “Behind an Immigrant’s Past Series.” Since Violante was born
in Venezuela, I can only assume that future books will tell how her
father left Sicily and made his way to South America and eventually to
the United States. Centuries after the first immigrants came to these
shores, the immigrant experience remains a fascinating and integral part
of America’s past and present as it shapes who we are as Americans, and
Violante’s book adds to our understanding of that experience. I look
forward to her future volumes.
Posted March 31, 2012
This book spoke to my heart. At times I cried and at times I smiled as I imagined what my dad was also experiencing during this period in Italy. My dad was also a young boy growing up through all of this and he always said he wanted to share with me what he went through as a child, but he passed away before he could. Reading this book gave me a glimpse into my father's childhood and I want to say thank you!
Posted March 15, 2012
What an interesting and engrossing story! I am an avid reader but this story interested me so much that I read it in one evening. The author, Susan Violante, has done what a lot of children wish they had – she was able to get her father to make recordings about his life so she could transcribe them and learn more about his past. A parents’ life can sometimes go untold primarily due to a lack of conversation, so these recordings are such a gift. As Susan begins to listen to the tapes, she realizes that it is a story that should be told.
What makes this book so interesting is that it chronicles a families struggle through WWII, and it is told from the standpoint of her father Nino when he was a small child. I really loved that the story is told by an older man, yet through the eyes of a young boy. The description of Ninos home and the sounds of war were so vivid you almost feel like you were there. This is what makes for a great read as far as I’m concerned!
I really love anything that has to do with history, and especially WWII, so I was surprised that I learned so much more about it from this book. Not only is this book enjoyable to read, but it is also educational.
I can’t even imagine what Nino must have gone through or witnessed during that time in his life, but this book really brings to life the struggles he must have endured. I really enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series!
Posted March 12, 2012
Imagine been close to your father and mother and not really knowing what life they had endured. Then one day your father gives you some tapes that have recorded his life, what an eye opener and this is what happened to the author.
The story begins in Tripoli in 1940 and war has just been declared, being Italian nationals it is not long before 'Papa' is called up to serve his country. This leads to 'Mama', Nino AND Gino left behind to fend for themselves. As the bombings arrive in Tripoli 'Mama' makes the decision to move and try and find 'Papa' taking the family on an adventure........Once reunited with 'Papa' the family are settled until the German's arrive and force them to be moved to Sicily where they stayed until the end of the war.
The facts and events which are described and related by the young Nino are fantastic. Having to step up to be the man of the house when his dad is called up, the antics and capers he has to endure in order to help his mother and sister survive are remarkable. Even though the whole world is at war, he is oblivious to this and sees his life as an adventure.
This is a really enjoyable book to read, the atmosphere and places described come alive and every scene can be envisaged in your mind. I am really looking forward to the following books in the series to find out what happens to Nino and what further adventures he had. The author has even produced products relating to the book.
Posted March 3, 2012
Innocent War is based during World War II. It is written from the perspective of a boy who lives in the Italian colonies of Tripoli Libya. I have read many books and watched many books regarding World War II, but this is the first one that I have ever read from the perspective of an Italian--much less an Italian living in North Africa.
Nino experiences hunger, treacherous bombings, arrests and disappearances of neighbors, an arduous trek through the desert to find his dad, hopping from place of "safety" to the next and all that a young man about to turn 12 experiences. He must help his mamma take care of his little sister, and he uses his problem solving skills to bring a little extra food to the table.
What I liked about Innocent War
The perspective of an Italian during the war and the innocence that was stripped from him. And yet, he still maintained a little naivety. Maybe he was in denial, but the horrors of war stunned and scarred him and yet he still had a good heart.
His mamma was a very strong and determined and kind woman--taking in a young jewess who not only was an extra mouth to feed but a danger to their family if they were found out.
I couldn't put it down. I just want to know what Nino was going to experience next. It was like I was actually hearing an 11 year old tell me his story.
How Innocent War could improve
The marketing should be focused on literature for boys and young men. It's really written well for boys to read.
Some of the phrases and paragraphs were bit simplistic: some unnecessary details were added. On the trek across the desert, we are told about every progression of the suitcases. It didn't make the story move along. It was just an extra piece of information.
Innocent War is not a book that I would not normally choose to read, but I'm glad I did as it opened my eyes even more to the atrocities and daily horrors of World War II.
Posted July 14, 2011
This truly incredible Young Adult novel begins with a very kind introduction for the audience. A woman by the name of Susanna heads into her childhood home. Susanna briefly describes her relationship with her parents, especially her father, Nino. Not a bad father at all; Nino was simply an enigma until this day, when he hands his Susanna some tapes. The tapes are actually a gift, in a way, that speak of his experiences while growing up in the tumultuous 1940's in his home of Tripoli. Susanna will know a great deal about her father when the tapes are all played. Soon, the reader walks beside Susanna as the tape begins to play and we head back into a time of war. Here, in a small Italian colony, is where Nino lives with his family. He is a ten-year-old who has had a quiet existence as a child - going to school, playing with his friends, loving his younger sister - and, quite simply, enjoying his life. One day, he sees his mother's face growing a bit odd-looking, as the buzz of the radio introduces the words of Mussolini into their peaceful household. What began with a good meal of Minestrone ends with a declaration of war, and French planes begin flying overhead. The small town, Nino's small school - everything becomes a place of complete and utter fear. Peace is gone as the bombs begin to drop, as the sirens begin to sound, and food rationing becomes a daily reality. As Nino's father is called to the frontlines, Nino, his mother, and sister see their neighbors being given yellow patches in the shape of the Star of David to wear at all times, when the Nazi soldiers come to town. They also receive a new family member, as she is hidden in Nino's household to escape the Germans who have taken her loved ones away. Nino turns from a young boy into the man of the house, as he shines soldiers' boots for crackers in order to feed his mother and sister. As events unfold, the family must experience a frightening trek across the land to meet up with their father and build a new home. However, as with anything during WWII, Nino's experiences have only just begun. The author has done a fantastic job with this book. Although the book would benefit from a good editor's eye, that takes nothing away from the truly extraordinary story. Not only are all parts of the story so powerfully written that you can feel the author's personal attachment to her words; but, every description is so in-depth that readers will find themselves seeing every inch of the Arabian one-story, white concrete villas that made up Nino's community. And they will hear the horrific drone of the airplanes as they flew across the sky, dropping bombs on the heads of all the frightened families. This is one book that you will not want to miss. Young adults will be given a very good look into the lives of children during WWII. They will also see the pride, loyalty, and determination it took to keep a family together while their world was falling apart. Quill Says: A powerful beginning to what will, most definitely, become a much-beloved series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 6, 2010
I Also Recommend:
Since I love to learn about history, I decided to read this book. This book is about WW2, and what kids life was like in Libya, and Italy. This book shows that the British, and French bombed Libya (Italian colony) and killed lots of innocent people. The main character (Nino) learned that everything he was told when he was young, was all a lie.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 20, 2009
Innocent War is a story of a war told through the eyes of a young boy and it tells how the reach of war is long and how affects everyone it touches. The story of the young boy is well told by the author, Susan Violante. She wrote it in a way that made you feel and experience everything that Nino had experienced in his young life. You come to realize that once war affects your life it is something you can't escape and will forever change your life. Also the novel tells of how there is always two sides of the story and what you perceive may not always be the truth. I would highly recommend this to anyone if they want to know about history or to study the human condition and how inescapable circumstances change a person.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 6, 2010
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