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*Summer of the War* by Gloria Whelan - tweens/young readers book review



Summer of the War
by Gloria Whelan
Grades 6-9 176 pages HarperCollins August 2006 Hardcover    

Every summer is the same for Belle and her family. They go to the island and spend their time exploring, reading, and generally being cut off from the world. The summer of 1942, though, everything changes. Belle and her three siblings will be staying alone with their grandparents, as their parents are working to support the war effort. World War II is raging in Europe, and that means one major change to life on the island -- Caroline is coming. Carrie is Belle's older cousin who has been living in France with her father for as long as Belle can remember. Carrie, at fifteen, is a year older and, Belle is certain, much more sophisticated than she. Belle is used to being the oldest, so it's exciting for her to have Carrie coming to stay.

Carrie isn't what anyone expects, though. She refuses to calmly go along and fit into their life on the island. She won't get up in the morning to swim in the freezing water or play the recorder after dinner. She doesn't want to be isolated from the world the way the rest of the family does. Carrie is interested in magazines, cities, clothes, makeup, and boys--not island cottages and reading. Belle and Carrie are as different as they could be, and they don't see how they could ever be friends. Carrie is ruining Belle's safe and constant way of life, changing everything, doing the unthinkable. Everything has always been the same on the island, and Carrie is shaking things up. They're not so isolated when Carrie, fleeing the danger in Europe, is sent to stay with them, missing her father and wishing she was back in Europe the whole time.

Summer of the War will not disappoint fans of Gloria Whelan's work. It's not quite as fantastic as Homeless Bird but a good book all the same, nicely written and full of believable, interesting characters. Readers will relate to Belle but be glad for the excitement that Carrie brings to the story. America during the Second World War is a more common setting than those that Gloria Whelan usually chooses for her novels, but she certainly brings it to life. The story of two girls on an island is set in motion by the war; it's simpler than the war but still about an event that changed the entire world.

Readers of historical fiction will enjoy this novel, but so will readers who simply enjoy stories of people and how they interact. Carrie changes everyone in their summer on the island. The effects of things like not getting up to swim in the morning stretch further than one might think. Gloria Whelan's understanding of people and their relationships is obvious in Summer of the War.

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