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Keep Smiling Through

Keep Smiling Through

4.5 6
by Ann Rinaldi

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A ten-year-old girl growing up during World War II learns the painful lesson that doing what's right is not always easy.
Includes a reader's guide.


A ten-year-old girl growing up during World War II learns the painful lesson that doing what's right is not always easy.
Includes a reader's guide.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

* "Rinaldi creates . . . [a] vivid picture of the period she saw as a child."—Booklist, starred review
Children's Literature - Alexandria LaFaye
The title is the motto and the theme of this book about daily life in New Jersey during World War II. Given as a piece of advice from her departing housekeeper, young Kay Hennings uses this phrase as a source of encouragement as she struggles to make sense of her own life in a time of turmoil. Her country is at war; her family is overshadowed by the unrelenting demands of her pregnant stepmother, and her brothers are sure the German residents of their town are Nazi spies. Rinaldi provides so many minute and intriguing details that she makes it seem as though the Nazi phobia, rationing, and the heightened patriotism of the radio programs of this period could be a part of any reader's life. Kay wants to break free of her stepmother's control. She's given the opportunity when she must decide between telling the truth and doing as she's told, when her German grandfather becomes inadvertently involved in anti-patriotic activities.
The ALAN Review - Judy Beckman
Kay is ten. She believes that the ideals of loyalty to country, truth, and respect espoused by radio program heroes will make everything go right, even in the midst of WWII. She keeps "smiling through," yearning for bacon, sugar, and Mary Jane shoes - all rationed. America and its soldiers come first. Hero's platitudes seem clear, but Kay struggles, puzzled, as she watches "Amazing Grace" - her pregnant, pampered, and fit-pitching stepmother - nourish her unborn child and feed her own selfishness while the family does without. Clear truth vanishes altogether when Kay's German grandfather is dubbed a "Nazi traitor." Kay speaks out - after she realizes that loyalty to family and country demands courage. Rinaldi's well-researched story and vivid characters will hook and hold readers from grades 7 - 10 and provide an excellent companion piece to history units.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8Despite a lack of focus in plot and theme, this novel succeeds in providing a detailed picture of the World War II homefront in New Jersey in 1943. Ten-year-old Kay is an appealing heroine caught in an unloving home situation. Her stepmother, "Amazing Grace," exercises incredible abilities in the humiliation and cruelty departments, and her best friend is taken over by the golden girls at school when her brother dies in combat. The war is very distant and it hardly seems a crime when father won't let the older sisters buy bonds. Far worse is that he makes them quit school to work, and takes their pay checks and demands control of their lives in ways that girls of the `90s will find hard to accept. When Kay's grandfather, a German immigrant, is arrested and only Kay knows the identity of the traitor, personal bravery in support of the country becomes real. The death of her stepmother's baby that arrives prematurely and Kay's feeling of responsibility seem extraordinarily melodramatic, and are undercut by the sacrifice of her only doll for scrap rubber. It's the little details of rationing, the radio soap operas, and the ever-desirable "Mary Janes" instead of Buster Brown oxfords that make this story work.Carol A. Edwards, Minneapolis Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Wrapped in a WW II world of rationing and radio dramas, 10- year-old Kay learns that doing the right thing in life doesn't always mean a happy ending. Kay has become her pregnant, pampered stepmother's target for abuse: blamed for everything, slapped for minor infractions, forced to wear dresses made from feed sacks or festooned with ugly ruffles. Her stepmother's parents are kind to her, but Kay is horrified to overhear her German-born stepgrandfather discussing the old country with a local merchant, even taking a political pamphlet. After he and the merchant are assaulted by anti-German thugs, Kay tells what she heard to a reporter, making sure he knows that her grandpa was showing concern, not disloyalty. Her enraged stepmother straps her, later goes into premature labor, and gives birth to a daughter who dies in the hospital.

Writing about an era in which she lived (explained in an author's note), Rinaldi (The Secret of Sarah Revere, 1995, etc.) fills her story with lively period detail (from Mary Janes to Margaret O'Brien) and period attitudes, too (others know of Kay's suffering but don't try to help her). Though her characters tend to be types, or, in the evil stepmother's case, caricatures, Rinaldi allows Kay to salvage her self-respect with the information that the baby's death was the result of an equipment shortage—far from the front, she was a war casualty nonetheless. A bittersweet historical novel.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Great Episodes Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 7.00(h) x (d)
570L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

ANN RINALDI is an award-winning author best known for bringing history vividly to life. A self-made writer and newspaper columnist for twenty-one years, Ms. Rinaldi attributes her interest in history to her son, who enlisted her to take part in historical reenactments up and down the East Coast. She lives with her husband in central New Jersey. Visit her online at www.annrinaldi.com.

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Keep Smiling Through 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kay Henning is a little girl growing up in New Jersy during the war. She always depends on her radio heros, but she finds out that doing the right thing is not always the easy thing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, about a 10-year old girl named Kay Hennings growing up in the mid-1940s, is a wonderful historical fiction story. Kay has troubles at home, at school, and not to mention what was going on in the war around her. Yet she seems to manage while being the subject of her stepmother, Grace's abuse. She is a selfish woman who thinks little of Kay. She blames her for everything that goes wrong. Kay loses her friend when she moves to New York. Her parting words were, "Keep smiling through, honey." But Kay doesn't think there's any way she can smile through without her best friend. Things don't get any better when she witesses her grandfather being arrested at the local ice-cream shop and the reporters want to interview her to find out what really happened. Grace says that if Kay tells the truth, her grandfather will be looked down upon. But Kay's new friend, Mrs. Leuldoff, says go with what her heart says. Does Kay do the right thing? Or does Grace's opinion get the better of her? All Kay knows is that she has to keep smiling through and hope for the best..
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was amazing. i mean you really got to understand a little girl's point of view on a hard life, in the time of the war. i think that kay was so brave in front of her step mother. a must read, a newyears resalution!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kay is a brave little girl. She handles life as it's thrown at her. It brings to life what people had to deal with at that time. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good book.