Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Summer of the war

Summer of the war

Gloria Whelan
For ages 12 and up
HarperCollins, 2006   ISBN: 978-0060080723

Belle is delighted to be back on the island again. Every summer she and her family join her grandparents on small Turtle Island in Lake Huron in Michigan. This year is a little different however because Belle’s parents were not able to come. Her father is helping to build planes for the Army Air Force and her mother has gone back to being a doctor to fill in the vacuum left by all the doctors who have gone to war. Pearl Harbor was bombed just six months ago and much has changed since then.

The island is pretty much the same though. Grandpa still rules the roost and Belle, her brother, and her two sisters quickly slide into their summer routines. Soon after they arrive Grandpa tells the children that their cousin Caroline will be joining them on the island for the summer. Belle is thrilled at the idea of having a new friend; a new friend who has lived in London, Paris and Washington. Think of all the wonderful things that Carrie will be able to share with Belle.

When Carrie arrives however, Belle quickly discovers that her cousin is not in the least bit happy to be on the island. She misses her father who is in London and thinks that the island and everyone on it are boring. She is not interested in swimming, making music, or taking part in any of their usual summer activities. Furthermore she spreads discord wherever she goes. It would seem that it is impossible to leave war behind. Because of the war in Europe Carrie is on the island, and because she is on the island a mini war of their own is turning their summer upside down. Will Carrie and Belle be able to make peace before something really dreadful happens?

In this superb book Gloria Whelan explores the way in which a family is touched by WWII. She creates an interesting dynamic by having her characters also struggle with a more personal war which is taking place in their midst. Suddenly everyone is having to reassess their positions and roles. It is only when Carrie faces a real crisis that Belle discovers that she is capable of great compassion and understanding.