When German prisoners of war are incarcerated in rural Pennsylvania during World War II, are they still the enemy?
Thirteen-year-old artist John, whose father is serving overseas in Europe, is sent by his mother to earn a little extra money at the Miller farm and tomato cannery. Though he’s resentful at first, John is in awe of the thick slabs of meatloaf and buttery potatoes the Mennonite Millers feed him, for money is tight and food is short at home. He’s angry, however, that he’ll be working alongside German POWs, sent to help with the farm labor. Though one of the prisoners frightens John, the others are surprisingly nice. In fact, they’re mostly drafted soldiers who are kept separated from the committed Nazis who terrorize them in the POW camps for being too friendly with the Americans. Hans is John’s favorite prisoner. Like John, Hans is an artist, and he nurtures the talent and passion John must hide at home. When John’s father returns injured from the war, John must come to terms with his wider world in the face of his dad’s bitterness. The setting for this gentle coming-of-age novel is explained in a historical note in the preface. It provides intriguing atmosphere, though the hints of war-related intrigue are quickly resolved in favor of a routine narrative arc for an artistic teen with disapproving parents. The all-white cast of characters makes sense in context.
A mild historical with a distinctive setting. (Historical fiction. 9-12)