Willow Run

Willow Run

4.3 20
by Patricia Reilly Giff

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Meggie Dillon’s life has been turned upside down by World War II. Her older brother Eddie enlisted and was shipped off to fight in Europe. And people say that anywhere else Grandpa would be turned in because he’s German, and people might think he’s a spy. Is it true? Could Grandpa be taken away?
Meggie’s father has announced that… See more details below


Meggie Dillon’s life has been turned upside down by World War II. Her older brother Eddie enlisted and was shipped off to fight in Europe. And people say that anywhere else Grandpa would be turned in because he’s German, and people might think he’s a spy. Is it true? Could Grandpa be taken away?
Meggie’s father has announced that they must help the war effort and move to Willow Run, Michigan, where he’ll work nights in a factory building important war planes that will help fight the enemy in Europe. Willow Run will be the greatest adventure ever, Meggie thinks. There she meets Patches and Harlan, other kids like her whose parents have come here to do their part in the war. And there she faces questions about courage, and what it takes to go into battle, like Eddie, and how to keep hope alive on the home front.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
PW's starred review of Lily's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff, a 1998 Newbery Honor book, said that the WWII homefront novel, about Lily's growing friendship with a Hungarian refugee, "has all the ingredients that best reward readers." Willow Run follows Lily's best friend, Meggie, when her family must move to Willow Run, Mich., to work in a factory and help the war effort. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Meggie Dillon's life has changed for the worse. Her family has left their lovely home in Rockaway, New York, so that her father can help build planes for the war effort in Willow Run, Michigan. Her older brother, Eddie, fighting in Europe, is now missing in action. Her German grandfather had to be left behind in Rockaway, so that people would not suspect him of being a German spy. Resilient Meggie makes friends anyway---Ronelle, Patches, Harlan-and continues to write letters to her grandfather and to her friend Lily. Her indignant defense of her grandfather is suddenly reversed when she finds herself suspecting the ice cream deliveryman of being a Nazi spy. With a tightly woven plot reminiscent of Lily's Crossing (Dell, 1997), Giff tells the parallel tale of a different sort of sacrifice. Her prose is sparse yet vivid, and the poverty and transience of Meggie's world is palpable. Meggie is as intriguing as Lily and matures quietly and emotionally, coming to realize what courage really is by looking within herself. Inspired by the hope in those around her, Meggie is finally able to offer hope to others. Hers is the story of the sacrifices made back home, where the battle is ultimately won. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 176p., and PLB Ages 11 to 15.
—Melissa Moore
Children's Literature
Margaret "Meggie" Dillon, introduced in Giff's Newbery Honor book, Lily's Crossing, is the heroine of this book. Giff once again achieves giving younger novel enthusiasts a realistic picture of what it felt like to live during WWII. The story begins when Meggie wipes a red swastika from the window of her German-born grandfather's home. In this gesture we see her love for her grandfather, her close bond to him, as well as her fear that this loyal American will suffer unwarranted consequences because of his native land. Before long Meggie and her parents leave their Rockaway, New York, home to move to Willow Run, Michigan, where her father will be working on airplanes to help the war effort. A background fear is Margaret's brother, fighting overseas. Her parents and Meggie worry more when he is reported MIA. We find out in Lily's Crossing that he has died, but Giff will not take away the hope of the focus character in this book. No, this book is fabulous at describing the hopes, dreams, and pressures on a young girl. Through Meggie we see the discomfort of her move and of living in a place with paper-thin walls among lots of people in reduced circumstances, far away from her best friend Lily. The reader sees Meggie stealing money from the mysterious ice cream seller just because he might be a spy, and she worries about how she can ever pay the money back. She learns that he worries more about his own cowardice than missing ice cream. Meggie wonders about courage. This book is true to the emotions of the main character and brings to life a thoughtful, loving young girl who is doing her best to weather all the changes around her and her German-born grandfather. 2005, WendyLamb/Random House, Ages 9 to 11.
—Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Meggie Dillon, 11, candidly shares her perspective on the sacrifices and fears experienced on the homefront during World War II. The girl's family moves from Rockaway, NY, to Willow Run, MI, so that her father can work in a plant constructing B-24 bombers. Meggie is a likable, realistic, fleshed-out character, introduced in Lily's Crossing (Delacorte, 1997). In this current offering, she deals with moving away from all that is familiar to her to live in far less comfortable conditions. Her brother, Eddie, is in the army. Her grandfather is a German American, and when older boys paint a swastika on his window, she bravely tries to chase them away. Though she has found her grandpa annoying in many ways, once the Dillons move to Willow Run, Meggie misses him terribly and realizes that despite his many quirks, she loves him dearly. With the news that Eddie is missing after the invasion at Normandy, she springs into action to bolster her family's hope for his safe return. She and her friends become convinced that the ice-cream man must be a spy because he isn't fighting in the army. They use their suspicions to steal from him, an act that leaves Meggie feeling extremely guilty. Giff's engrossing, heartwarming story will help readers understand how personally war affects people.-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This is a rare, vivid glimpse of the wartime sacrifices of American families who stayed behind during WWII. Eleven-year-old Meggie Dillon's story begins in 1944 in Rockaway, N.Y., just as her family's moving to Michigan's Willow Run so her father can work in a B-24 bomber factory. Meggie imagines a great adventure, but without the accompanying trauma. For one thing, the family leaves her often-embarrassing German-born grandfather behind, and she feels guilty for being secretly glad. She misses her best friend Lily Mollahan of Lily's Crossing (1997), her new home is as ugly as a rabbit hutch and worst of all, she worries about her brother Eddie, off fighting in Europe. Giff expertly captures Meggie's genuinely childlike free associations, her dry sense of humor and her moral development, as Grandpa's words sink in: "You have to dig deep before you judge a person." Spam and spies, 1940s songs and Victrolas and a lively cast of characters make wartime America pop to life in this finely wrought story of cowardice, courage and digging deep. (Fiction. 9-12)
From the Publisher
“Tough and tender, this [book] is an excellent addition to World War II shelves.”—Booklist, starred

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The wheels made a horrible sound; no wonder. The wagon belonged to Joey Kind down the block, who hadn't used it in years; the whole thing was a rusted mess. And the nerve of Joey to say, "You be careful,
Meggie Dillon. Don't ruin it."

Too bad, I wanted to tell him, keep your old wagon. But I had to borrow it. It was all for the war effort.
And right now rattling along in the center of the wagon was Big Bertha, Mom's iron statue that had a clock in her stomach. She'd been rusting away in the attic forever, just like Joey's wagon.

Big Bertha was going to war. Mr. North at the junkyard would pay me a quarter and Bertha would be melted down into bullets. Poor Bertha.

It was almost dark so I began to hurry. I chugged past Grandpa's house but I knew he wasn't there. He was at my house waiting for Dad to get home from work. Dad had news, that was all Mom would tell us,
and we'd hear it over a late supper of salad greens and flounder in tomato sauce: greens we'd grown in
Grandpa's garden, and flounder Grandpa and I had caught this morning. Poor flounder. Poor me for having to eat it with every single one of its skinny bones getting caught in my teeth.

Someone was moving along the side of Grandpa's house. My mouth went dry. Here we were in the middle of a war. Suppose it was a spy?

As quietly as I could considering the squeak of the wheels, I shoved the wagon into a pile of bushes and tiptoed up the driveway. I went slowly, ready to tear back to the street and across the lawn to one of
Grandpa's neighbors before the spy shot me.

A pair of shadows. I clapped my hand to my mouth so I wouldn't make a sound. Then I realized I knew them both. One was Joey Kind's older brother, Mikey, and the other was a kid I had seen down at the beach flexing his muscles as if he were Charles Atlas, the weight lifter. His name was Tommy or Donny or .
. . I wasn't sure, but I remembered my friend Lily Mollahan nudging me, asking, "Did you ever see such an idiot in your life?"

He was not only an idiot, he was big. They were both big, sixteen or seventeen, and tough, and I
shivered thinking what would happen if they caught me following them.

But what were they doing? They had an open can of red paint and a couple of brushes, and they began to dab something on Grandpa's kitchen window.

"Hey!" I yelled, without stopping to think.

They spun around. Mikey looked embarrassed, but the muscle guy kept going with the brush. It looked as if he were painting a spider . . . but then I saw. He was painting a swastika, the Nazi sign, on the glass pane.

"That's what we do to Nazis around here," he said.

"He's not a Nazi!" I could feel the anger in my chest, a pain so sharp it was almost hard to breathe. "He's
American," I managed.

"Sounds German to me." The muscle guy was grinning. And then he was imitating Grandpa, mixing up his fs and his vs, sounding the way the Nazis did in the movies . . .

. . . sounding like Grandpa.

I had a quick picture of Grandpa in my mind, Grandpa sitting on a bench down at the canal, his head back,
that awful red hat on his head, his face sunburned, singing "Mairzy Doats" with a German accent.

"Get out of here, both of you!" I yelled, almost forgetting it would be dark in about two minutes and I was alone with them back there.

"You're lucky," Muscle Man said. "If this were anywhere else but Rockaway, they'd probably put him in jail.
He's got to be a spy."

I picked up a stone, ready to throw it, but Mikey took a step toward me. "You know what, Meggie? I think you want the Nazis to win the war. You and your Nazi grandfather."

My arm went down to my side. "That's not true. You know that's--"

"Anywhere else, something would happen to him. Worse than jail," Mikey said. "Worse than anything. And to you, too."

Why was he saying this? Maybe because I'd told the lifeguard at the beach that he was out too far.

But maybe not. He'd always been mean.

Or maybe that was what people really thought, that Grandpa was a spy, that I . . .

Somewhere down the block I heard a door slam. The two of them slipped past me along the side of the house. When they were halfway down the driveway I plunked the stone after them, hitting the pail of paint.

"Crummy aim," Muscle Man said, and Mikey called, "Heil Hitler."

"Watch out, next time--" and then I broke off because it looked as if they were going to come back after me.

I darted around back, but now I heard them marching up the street yelling, "Heil, heil," with that same accent.

I went up to Grandpa's window and put my finger on the painted swastika. It was thick and still shiny wet, and I could feel that my cheeks were wet, too.

Grandpa was the biggest pest in the whole world, calling me Margaret every two minutes instead of
Meggie, whispering during movies so I couldn't even hear what was going on, saying bah whenever he didn't agree with me.

So why was I crying?

From the Hardcover edition.

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