Don't You Know There's a War On?

Don't You Know There's a War On?

by Avi


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World War II is on everyone's mind and in every headline, and Howie Crispers has a hunch that his school principal is a spy. With a little snooping around, Howie finds out something even more alarming. Principal Lomister may not be a spy, but he is plotting to get rid of Howie's favorite teacher. Howie's dad is fighting Nazis overseas, and his mom is working hard to support the war effort, so Miss Gossim is the only person Howie can depend on. With the help of his friends, and a plan worthy of radio show superhero Captain Midnight, Howie intends to save Miss Gossim!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780380815449
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/04/2003
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 558,570
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Avi is the award-winning author of more than seventy-five books for young readers, ranging from animal fantasy to gripping historical fiction, picture books to young adult novels. Crispin: The Cross of Lead won the Newbery Medal, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth were awarded Newbery Honors. He is also the author of the popular Poppy series. Avi lives outside Denver, Colorado. You can visit him online at

Date of Birth:

December 23, 1937

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I was late that Monday morning because my shoelace broke just as I was leaving for school. Meant I had to use some string. Now, you might think string would be easy to find, but it wasn't. String was something you gave away for the war effort. Besides, my sister had already left for school and my mother was at her job at the Navy Yard. Those days me and my family lived in Brooklyn. During the war. When I was eleven.

Like I was saying, I was supposed to be going to school. Class Five-B, Public School Number Eight. P.S. 8, we called it. The school's real name was The Robert Fulton School, but I never heard no kid call it that.

Anyway, by the time I finally got going down Hicks Street, I was so late no kids were there. Just grown-ups wearing big coats and dark hats. Me? I was dressed in my regular school outfit: bomber jacket, brown corduroy pants, plaid flannel shirt, and a snap-on glossy red necktie that almost reached my middle. Hanging round my neck was what we called a dog tag. Sort of this tin disk with your name and address stamped on it. All us kids had to wear them. You know, in case the enemy attacked like at Pearl Harbor and people wanted to know who your body was.

The name on my tag was Howard Bellington Crispers. But the thing was, the only person who ever used my full name was my mom. And see, she only did when she was mad at me. So mostly people called me Howie. Which worried me, because it wasn't on my tag. I mean, how were they going to identify me if my name wasn't right? By my looks?

Back then I wasn't very tall. But my ears were big, plus I had the same old blue eyes and carrot-colored hair. Though Mom wasalways making me brush that hair down, it never stood flat. And no matter how much I was in front of the bathroom mirror pressing my ears back, they didn't stay flat neither. These days, being sixteen, I'm taller, but to tell the truth, the hair and the ears, they haven't changed much.

The other thing, that morning it felt like it was going to rain. Which meant my shoes--with the string lace--might get wet. Not so jazzy because, like everybody, we had ration coupons for only three pairs of shoes a year. For the whole family. The point being, you did what you had to do because in those days, no matter what happened, you could always say, "Hey, don't you know there's a war on?" See, it explained anything.

So anyway, there I was, going down Hicks Street carrying my pop's beat-up wooden lunch box. Inside was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white Tip Top bread wrapped in paper, plus a graham-cracker snack and this dinky bottle of Borden's chocolate milk. My left hand was holding a canvas satchel with my schoolbooks.

This Hicks Street was narrow, squeezed tight by three-story brownstone houses with stoops. The neighborhood also had some old wooden houses, plus apartment buildings. My family lived in one of them apartments, a narrow third-floor walk-up with four small rooms. That included the kitchen complete with a few of your regular Brooklyn cockroaches. Didn't bother me. Everyone had 'em.

Them days, go along Brooklyn streets and you'd see tons of little flags with big blue stars in front windows. The flags were saying your family had someone in the war. Some windows had more than one star. There were gold stars too. Gold meant your someone had been killed.

There was this blue star in our window because my pop was in the merchant marine. He sailed in the convoys going 'cross the North Atlantic bringing war supplies to our troops and allies. That meant we never knew where he was. When he wrote--wasn't often--his letters were censored. Which was because, like people said, "Loose lips sink ships." And let me tell you something--it was true too. Tons of ships were torpedoed by German subs. Wolf packs, they called them. And sailors--gobs of 'em--drowned. So I worried about Pop. A lot.

Oh, sure, I'd see him for a few days every couple of months. But it was always a surprise when he came. He'd be dirty, red eyed, needing a shave, and you wouldn't believe how tired. Most of his leave he just slept, except when he got up to eat apples. He loved apples. Ate 'em like they'd just been invented. Core and all, only spitting out the pips.

When his time was up, he'd sail off. We didn't know where. I don't think Pop knew. Anyway, we weren't supposed to ask.

Still, I was better off than my best friend, Duane Coleman, who we called Denny. This Denny, he never saw his pop 'cause his father--a tailor--was an Eighth Army GI. That's General Infantry. The Eighth was fighting Rommel, the Nazi general, in North Africa. No saying when Mr. Coleman would be home. If he came home. All us kids were scared of getting one of them telegrams from the government that began, "regret to inform you that..."

Now, I was small, but Denny was smaller. I mean, the guy was waiting for his growth spurt like Dodger fans waited for a pennant. You know, "Wait till next year!"

Denny always had this serious look on his face. Maybe it was his wire-frame glasses, which not a lot of kids wore. Or his slicked-back black hair. Or the white shirt and the bow tie he was always wearing. Red suspenders too. Straps, we called them...

Don't You Know There's a War On?. Copyright © by John Avi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Don't You Know There's a War On 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
MarthaL on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating story to listen to while traveling. A sixteen year old narrator looks back to the time when he was he was eleven and his beautiful teacher was required to resign. When he fines out why the suspicious principal is requiring this he gets the whole town to sign his petition to keep this fifth grade teacher. Humorous, endearing and with a light touch on the wartime climate in Brooklyn, NY in the 1940's.
srssrs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once again, Avi has a hit with Don't You Know There's a War On?I am partial to historical fiction, and this book is light on factual historical details, which is fine. I don't think Avi meant for it to be that kind of book. What it is, is a story about a boy whose curiousity gets him into all kinds of trouble. But, it is funny every time you turn the page. The descriptions of action are fabulous and it is easy to imagine each scene! At times this book is just laugh out loud funny! The premise of the plot is that the main character, narrator, Howie thinks his prinicipal is a spy. It is set in Brooklyn during WW2 and it is easy to imagine a boy running around Brooklyn trying to do his own investigation. I haven't read all of Avi's books, but this is definitely my favorite. Believable characters, well scripted dialogue, and setting descriptions that are easy to imagine, even to a reader that is unfamiliar with this era in history. If there is any negative aspect to this book, it would be the fact that most students may not have the background knowledge regarding the homefront during WW2 to really get all the humor and understand the trials and tribulations people suffered in America during this time.
tuffstuff08 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was sort of unrealistic and boring. That's all I have to say.
Cai-C More than 1 year ago
"Don't you know there is a war on?" is a really good book. I first found this book when I looked in my sister's pile of old books she bought. I decided to look at the book since I saw the authors name because I heard Avi is a really good author. It is a good thing I picked this book up because it was worth reading!  It is very realistic book and it is suspenseful. This book is about an 11 year old boy named Howie who is living during World War II in Brooklyn. Howie's father is an American soldier who is serving the country by fighting the Nazi's and his mother works at the Navy Yard doing her best helping during the war.  While everyone is preoccupied with the war, Howie is spending most of his time paying attention to his secret crush which is his teacher Ms. Gossim! With a little of spying he thinks his principal is a spy and that Ms. Gossim is going to be fired! He doesn't know why but at all cost he doesn't want Ms. Gossim to be fired.  What he doesn't know is that his friend has a crush on Ms. Gossim too. My favorite scene is when he was going to buy milk at a store and there was a blackout. During the blackout a soldier caught him outside. Back then there was a curfew. The soldier told him to go back home but instead of going home, he went to Ms. Gossim's house since it was close by. He rang her doorbell and went inside her apartment. They talked for a little while. Then he tells her that he knows she is going to be fired but since he doesn't know why his guess was totally wrong. Ms. Gossim tells him the actually reason why she is getting fired is because she is now married a pregnant. During that time teachers who are married are not allowed to teach anymore. The book is told by his 16 year old self. I would recommend this book to a friend! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“Don’t you know there’s a war on?” is the title of the book I had just read. The authors name goes by AVI which his sister called him at young age and stuck with him ever since. His real name is Edward Irving Wortis, he never understood why his sister Emily gave him the name AVI.  He was born in New York just like the setting of the book and around the same age as the main character Howard or known as “Howie Crispers”.  The book is based in the WWII era (approximately 1943-1945) with the an eleven year old kid as the main character, Howard Crispers living in Brooklyn, New York with his mom, and sister. His father is in the war fighting over in Europe, Howie is constantly thinking of him. He goes to school at Public School Number Eight “P.S.8” The Robert Fulton School was the actual name, just the kids going there named it that and it stuck. Howie has a best friend more like a ‘brother’ named Denny and his dad is also in the war only fighting in Africa. Howie only likes to go to school for two main reasons, his friends and “crush” Miss. Gossim.  Just like any other young kids that age and era believed in everything, especially that all the adults they don’t know or hate are spies. One day Howie is on his way to school already late as it is gets in to some worse trouble being a curious kid like we all once were. He decides to sneak into his Principals house to snoop around since the chute for the coal was open. When he enters he did not expect to hear what any kid wants to hear about his favorite teacher, especially if he has a “crush” on her. Ever since that moment he decided to enter the principals house, he got into problems that he shouldn’t have to deal with at all. Now he doesn’t just worry about his dad now, but his teacher and problems at his house.  When I read this book, I had a visual image of like the “Sandlot” kind of feel to it when I read it. It was just a pretty detailed life as a kid living during WWII in New York. Gave a good sense of how things used to be seventy years ago. AVI was just writing about a fictional character in a fact fiction lifestyle, since he grew up during that time. This book was actually interesting to me, being in an older setting than modern time was nice. I really liked it how kids used to be smart without the need of technology. The Saturday night movies every week was pretty cool to be with all your friends packing a movie theatre would be great! Walking around your neighborhood with a red little wagon looking for scrap to help with the war effort was a daily thing and to me was pretty awesome. I wouldn’t mind doing that everyday just to get out the house. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII novels, this book in the eyes of a kid was really good. When reading this book you’ll notice how they use code words like “you really are a sad Sam”. And other sorts of sayings that you don’t understand at first but will catch on to later on. One thing is this book is pretty easy to read through quickly, so If you want something to last longer this isn’t your kind of book.      
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked the book, it was very interesting. The genre of the book isnt one of my favorites but it was a great book. The main character Howie Crispers was a very funny kid and I like how he has a huge crush on his teacher Miss Gossim, its very funny how disciptive he is when hes talking about her. Howie and best friend Denny sound like a bounch of crazy kids, I like how they think there principle is a spy. Then Howie sneaks in and over hear him talking about Miss Gossim his secret lover.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read it with my class for a novel study it was 'One of those books you can't put down' I enjoyed this book because of Howie being so clever
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don¿t You Know There¿s A War On? Austin Willie. The book, Don¿t You Know There¿s A War On?, is so awesome you will jump out of your socks every time you turn the page! Do you like books with settings from World War II? In this book there is an amazingly accurate detailed description of those lives affected by the War. AVI has done it again! With realistic characters so descriptive you will see the story just like a movie that you¿re watching at an I-MAX theatre! Howie and Denny worry about their dads because they never know where they are. Headlines and letters only make matters worse. This mindspinding story will make you laugh, cry, and keep you guessing until the very end. When Howie is faced with a choice to sneak into his principal¿s house, he falls into a coal chute and is covered in coal dust. Howie and Denny¿s dads are in the Pacific Islands and there is nothing they can do about it. And with Miss Gossim getting fired, the boys have a lot on their minds. Everything in this story is not all that confusing. This book will astound you with its amazing tales of heroism, bravery, and a little bit of stupidity, but as they say ¿Don¿t you know there¿s a War on?¿ This story makes you guess until the very end. And when you reach the end your head will still be and spinning and you¿ll still be guessing! So, with all the action and turning points, you never know who or what is next! Okay so you¿ve heard my opinion, now it¿s time for your own opinion! So what are you waiting for get that lazy caboose away from the computer and go buy this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the moment I picked up ¿Don¿t You Know There¿s A War On?¿ by Avi (Scholastic Inc., 2001, apx. $5.95), there was no way I could put it down! The protagonist in this fascinating novel by Avi, is Howard Bellington Crispers, Howie for short. Howie is an 11 year old boy in 1943, during World War II, in Brooklyn. Daune Coleman (who goes by Denny) is Howie's best friend. Howie and Denny go through many changes and challenges, including writing a petition to save their favorite teacher from getting fired. The news articles, that Avi brilliantly wrote into the book, give this hypnotizing historical fiction book originality. 'Don't You Know There's A War On?' is a must read for all children ages 9-12.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Dont you know their is a war on' is a great book anyone would enjoy. It is a intense drama and comedy. The book is about a boy who falls in love with his teacher and trys to keep her from getting fired. Also has some interesting information on the war. You will fall in love with the characters!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the best thing I had ever read. It was manly about a kid and his friend in a war. But don't let that stop you from getting it because the rating for this too big to put in words.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great! I loved the expressions and Avi's way of putting things together! Put it on your list. It may not sound good, but I finished it one night with a candle for light and couldn't put it down.
indyflyer More than 1 year ago
I am an 11 year old boy from North Carolina. I loved this book by the wonderful and great Auther Avi,to anyone who wants to read a great war story, that could have taken place during "any war in America."I think it is during WWII, becuase it is in the 1940's, when WWII was on.I read this all the time, bus,school, and home. I reccomend this great book to anyone who wants a great and interesting war story! READ THIS BOOK!! -indyflyer