Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Phantoms In The Snow

Phantoms In The Snow

Kathleen Benner Duble
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic , 2011   ISBN: 978-0545197700

Noah is only fifteen years old when his parents die of smallpox and he is left all alone. The minister in his Texan home town decides that the only thing to do is to send Noah to his uncle, James Shelley, who is a soldier at Camp Hale in Colorado. Raised by his pacifist parents to abhor war and violence, Noah is not at all keen to live with an uncle he has never met before, but he has no choice in the matter.

When Noah gets to Colorado, he finds out that his big, loud, and brash uncle is a Phantom in the Tenth Mountain Division, a soldier who gets around on skies. The Phantoms are often made fun of by soldiers in other military units, but when he starts to train to join the division, Noah finds out that being a soldier on skies is not easy. In fact, he finds the training sessions grueling. It doesn’t help that one of his instructors, Daniel Stultz, is the most gloomy and demanding man Noah has ever met.

With every passing day, Noah becomes more and more convinced that the young soldiers and their instructors are “crazies.” He believes that “Only an idiot would send these men to war.” However, after several weeks have gone by, Noah begins to realize that the Phantoms do have a role to play, and Daniel helps Noah to understand why they have to go to Europe and why this war needs to be fought. Noah grows fond of his fellow soldiers, his uncle, and the other people who serve in the Tenth Mountain Division, and when he needs to decide whether to stay in the U.S or to go Europe as a soldier, he signs up to do his duty.

This excellent book serves as a fitting tribute to the men who served in the Tenth Mountain Division, a group of people whose service is not widely recognized in the history books. Readers will be fascinated to see how Noah’s attitudes change, how he grows up to better understand who he is and what he should do. His struggles are poignant, and they perfectly capture the issues young people faced during the war years when they were forced to grow up too soon.