Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Don’t you know there’s a war on?

Don’t you know there’s a war on?

For ages 8 to 12
HarperCollins, 2001   ISBN: 978-0380815449

It is the spring of 1943 and things are looking pretty grim on the war front. U.S forces in North Africa have suffered “a Sharp Setback” and U-boats in the Atlantic have sunk thousands of tons of shipping. Eleven year old Howie Crispers is late for school when he sees his school principal, who should be at school by then, going into a nearby building. His head full of thoughts of spies and suchlike ideas, Howie decides to investigate. What Howie overhears in that brownstone is that his homeroom teacher, his dear Miss Gossim, is going to be fired. Howie is appalled. Miss Gossim is the best teacher in P.S. 8. They can’t fire her. Why would they want to do such a thing?

Two days after finding out this awful news Howie gets caught outside during an air raid blackout. He ends up taking refuge in Miss Gossim’s apartment and he finds out why she has been fired. Miss Gossim is actually not a Miss at all. She is a Mrs and she is going to have a baby. Apparently teachers are not allowed to stay on and teach if they become pregnant. Howie is appalled. His Miss Gossim is the wife of a pilot who is doing is duty for his country and the school authorities want to fire her because she is going to have a baby. This cannot be right and he, Howie, is going to do something about it.

Written in the vernacular of an eleven year old boy living in 1940’s New York City, this appealing book perfectly paints the picture of what it would have been like to be a city child during the World War II years. Readers are able to see how almost every aspect of daily life was touched by the war. Howie’s father is in the service and his mother is working in the Navy Yard. He and his friends follow what is going on in the war at home and at school. They collect scrap for the war effort, buy stamps for the war effort, wait for letters from their fathers, and watch movies with war themes. The war is always there. Young readers who have only read about World War II in history books might be surprised to find themselves confronted with this very close-to-home picture of the war. These are not images of distant battlefields but of a little boy missing his dad and having nightmares of this same dad dying at sea.

Wonderfully written with flashes of humor and poignancy, this is a book which brings an era to life and which serves as a tribute to the courage of those who stayed at home waiting, hoping, and working.