The Cuban missile crisis disrupts a Chicago girl's life.
Since the departure of her big brother, Sam, for the Navy, sixth-grader Joanna frightens easily. Without Sam, she's home alone often while her mom attends night school after work, and since the noises and people around their basement apartment scare her, she usually turns on the television for company. News of Russian missiles being sent to Cuba to be aimed at the United States and the imminent threat of nuclear war cause her to re-evaluate her feelings, especially the resentment she's been fostering toward her brother for leaving her behind. Despite her use of first-person narration, Rosengren never gets readers fully inside Joanna's character; her anger against her brother seems overblown, while other dramatic episodes, especially when her best friend's mother runs off to France, are underdeveloped. In general, Rosengren tells rather than shows emotions. The Cold War itself is a deus ex machina that Joanna can't affect, and the 1960s are evoked primarily via mention of television shows and songs.
A pleasant-enough story about a moment in history rarely captured in literature, this book doesn't rise above the ordinary. (Historical fiction. 8-12)