War Games

War Games

3.0 10
by Audrey Couloumbis, Akila Couloumbis

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1941. Greece. For 12-year-old Petros, World War II feels far away. But when the Germans invade Greece, the war is suddenly impossibly close.  Overnight, neighbors become enemies. People begin to keep secrets (Petros's family most of all). And for the first time, Petros has the chance to prove himself to his older brother, Zola. Soon what were once just boys'

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1941. Greece. For 12-year-old Petros, World War II feels far away. But when the Germans invade Greece, the war is suddenly impossibly close.  Overnight, neighbors become enemies. People begin to keep secrets (Petros's family most of all). And for the first time, Petros has the chance to prove himself to his older brother, Zola. Soon what were once just boys' games become matters of life and death as Petros and Zola each wonder if, like their Resistance fighter cousin, they too can make a difference. Based on the true story of Akila Couloumbis's wartime boyhood, Newbery Honor winner Audrey Couloumbis, writing with her husband Akila, explores what it was like coming of age in Nazi occupied Greece, and tells a story of family, friendship, and unlikely heroes.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine, November/December 2009:
"A gripping story."

School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—In 1941, when Germans occupy their small Greek town and the commandant comes to live in their house, 12-year-old Petros and his family hide their American connections and an escaping Greek resistance fighter as well. Based on Akila Couloumbis's wartime recollections, this novel is a grand read: an adventure full of the particulars of boys' play, and an unusual perspective on World War II lives. From the opening bird-shooting contest, it is clear that for Petros, his older brother, and his friends, these games will also be life-or-death matters. The suspense mounts as first they wait for the Germans, then for the commandant, and finally for a time when their cousin Lambros can move on. Details of farm life are woven naturally into the third-person narrative, with just enough explanation for readers to imagine their way into that world. The authors maintain the boy's perspective, including his conflicting feelings about the German corporal who encourages his play but represents the detested enemy. Realistic family dynamics include sibling rivalries stretching on into adulthood. The climactic violence is believable, and the resolution—though it takes place offstage—is deeply satisfying. Memorable.—Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.06(w) x 7.56(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

chapter 1

“I can hit the next three birds we see,” Zola said.

Petros shrugged. His older brother liked to make a contest of things.

They sat on a rock wall in the cooling green shade of the arbor, each with a small pile of stones beside his right hand. Above them, the weight of the grapevines rested on thick beams, the leaves trembling with the activity of so many small birds they could not be counted.

Zola made a confident sound with his breath and said again, “I can shoot three birds without missing.”

“Maybe you can,” Petros said, in a way that meant and maybe you can’t. Zola had just turned fifteen the day before Easter, making this the first of several unbearable months during which he would be three years older than Petros, instead of only two.

“If I do,” Zola said, “you do my chores for three days.”

A week ago, Zola made a parachute for his little white dog, using a basket and a small tablecloth. Petros told his brother it was a stupid idea. The dog would have nothing to do with it either.

Still determined, Zola had carried their sister’s rickety old cat up to the flat rooftop, where there was always a strong breeze. He put the cat in the basket and threw her off the house. The parachute worked. If the basket didn’t precisely float to the ground, it didn’t fall fast.

Best, it landed in a bush and the cat wasn’t hurt.

Worst, the basket landed in the bush in front of the window where Mama stood, looking out. Zola’s chores were doubled to keep him busy. Also, the cat scratched him. Stupid idea.

Now Petros scooped up a few stones and let them fall, tik, tik, tik. “Three days is too many.”

“Three birds.” Zola poked him with an elbow. “Three in a row.”

Petros wanted to poke him back but didn’t. “If you can do it, I can do it.”

“Then why haven’t you?” Zola asked.

“I never thought of it, that’s why.” If ever he had another choice of big brother, Petros decided, he would pick one less irritating.

Zola held his slingshot straight out and pulled back on the stone. He waited, his eyes searching for a target. The doves were big and slow. But they were Mama’s. She’d be angry if her birds got hurt.

They didn’t like to hit the many-colored finches, their favorites. And Zola dared not hit a swallow. A red blotch at the swallows’ throats was said to be a drop of the blood of Christ. Extremely bad luck came to anyone who hurt one of these birds.

That left only one worthy target. Sparrows were sharp-eyed and smart, and therefore nervous. Small and fast, they were hard to hit.

A bird moved through the tangle of vines. Zola let his stone fly, shooting through a space between the leaves. The bird dropped to the ground without a flutter.

“A lucky shot,” Petros said.

“An excellent shot,” Zola said, setting another stone.

“Excellent luck,” Petros argued. To send a stone through the knotted vines could be nothing else. Even so, Petros admired the shot.

Zola said, “I could do it again if a bird would land there.” Petros rolled his eyes. Of all the older brothers he knew, Zola was the worst.

A sparrow touched down where a vine hung below the arbor. The bird fell without waking Zola’s dog, only a few feet away. An ordinary shot, and Zola didn’t brag.

Again, the wait, watching. A careless target landed on a branch nearby. Zola got his third bird. “Ya-ha,” he shouted. “Three days!”

“No,” Petros said. “That was your bet. Here’s mine: I’ll kill two birds with one stone. Then you’ll do my chores.”

“For one morning,” Zola said agreeably.



“Three.” Petros felt in his pocket for a piece of shiny white marble, freckled with purple dots. Lucky, he thought, but he hadn’t tried it yet. As with all things lucky, the right time would come.

“Perhaps we’ll strike a bargain,” Zola said. “Right now you owe me three days.”

“I owe you nothing,” Petros said, “but two dead birds.”

He held out his lucky stone, easy to spot if it fell to the ground under the arbor. A blackbird landed in the garden outside the grape arbor and plucked a tiny beet plant. Petros set the stone into his slingshot and let it fly. The eager gardener fell over.

Petros ran over and picked up the stone. At the same time, their sister’s cat made a labored dash from a hiding place beneath the arbor to steal the blackbird.

The dash was more a matter of pride than necessity. The bird was too dead to put up a fight, the cat so aged she could hardly catch anything on her own. When the boys hunted, the cat ate.

As Petros turned, he saw a sparrow land on the grapevine above Zola. He aimed and, seeing the challenge on Zola’s face, shot. The stone nicked a stem on the branch the bird sat upon, cutting off a twig with two leaves that fell right on Zola’s head.

“Ha!” Zola cried.

“I can try again,” Petros said.

“No, you can’t,” Zola said. “It had to be two birds in a row.”

“I can do it, you know.” Petros had shot two birds in a row before.

Zola grinned. Switching from English to Greek, he said, “Here comes Stavros. Hit that bird and you don’t have to do my chores.”

Their cousin walked the mile from the village of Amphissa once or twice a week. He saw them in the shadows and pulled his own slingshot from his pocket.

“Don’t tease him,” Petros said.

Zola shrugged. Then he started trouble with his next breath. “I hit three birds in a row,” he said, “and Petros could not.”

“I said I would hit two birds with one stone.” The rock with purple spots hadn’t been so lucky after all, but it was still interesting.

Stavros leaned in to Petros and said out of the corner of his mouth, “Perhaps Zola was just lucky.”

“I can do it again anytime,” Zola said. “I can do it now.”

“So do it,” Stavros said, daring him.

“You do it first,” Zola said. “If you can’t, why should I bother?”

Stavros let his brows lower to cover his eyes like a shelf. Zola wouldn’t let Stavros win and Stavros couldn’t bear to lose. “Never mind,” Petros said to them. “We’ve scared away the birds.”

Zola said, “I have something else to do anyway.”

Petros wanted to kick Zola. It was just like his brother to make Stavros mad and then leave Petros to smooth the ruffled feathers. He hoped Zola hadn’t ruined Stavros for the day.

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War Games 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Okay l'll try explaining this:<p> There are four main demigod camps. 'ethics' 'athenian constitution' 'the republic' & 'nero'. I am the leader of three of those (l co-lead athenian constitution).<p> War games ~ these are things like free for all, Capture the Flag, etc. Basically anything that has to do with swords, guns, bows and other weapons, and fighting. People love war games, as they spice up rp.<p> Special War Games ~ These are where camps battle eachother. I have done this on several occasions and everyone loves them.<p> March Madness ~ This is a Real life activity, where you pick the basketball team winners, and whose going to verse.<p> Combine them ~ You get the first March Madness War game between four demigod camps.<p> In Battle ~ Basically we will play camp battle, where two camps battle to the "death", the winning team moves on to the next round. Each camp will have two chances in the first round. The camps that win, will be put up against eachother untill there is only two remaining camps. Those two will battle untill the winning camp is found!<p> Before Battle ~ Anyone that wants to can make a "braket". The person with the closest one to the final outcome, gets a prize. The prize has already been decided at the other camps.<p> Brakets ~ Are a listing of wich camps you tjink will win.<p> Need more?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read and find out what happens
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A game will be voted on every Thursday, the real game held Friday night. <p> The games available are: <br> Capture the Flag/Traditional War Game || 2 Cohorts will defend a base while the other 3 will try to break in and steal the flags of the Defensive team. All weapons and powers are allowed. The offensive team will get Hannibal the elephant. <br> Deathball/Ultimate Paintball || Paintball with 'special' guns. Any type of long-range weapon is allowed. No powers. A course will be set up with walls and towers. Each Cohort for itself. The game will last until 1 Cohort has captured 3 of the 5 Cohorts. <p> Wall of Death || A wall built by the engineers that holds unexpected traps at every turn. The first person to reach the top unaided wins for their Cohort. All weapons and powers allowed. <p> Obstacle Course || An obstacle course, but it has a deadly twist. Like the Wall of Death, but flat. <p> ~~~ <p> Rules of the War Games- <br> No intentional maiming/killing <br> No godmodding <br> You cannot heal immediately <br> Obey your Centurions <br> Praetors do not participate; they serve as referees/obstacles <p> ~~~ <p> The games will be played at the next res.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What if i dont want to.