A BOY AT WAR by Harry Mazer

A BOY AT WAR

A Novel of Pearl Harbor
Age Range: 10 - 14

KIRKUS REVIEW

In November of 1941, Adam Pelko is in yet another new high school. He’s a military brat; his father is a naval officer recently assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona and stationed in Pearl Harbor. Adam’s father is a spit-and-polish lieutenant who inspects the dust on the shelves and the wrinkles in the sheets in Adam’s bedroom. When Davi Mori, a classmate whose father was born in Japan, invites him to go fishing early Sunday morning, December 7th, Adam disobeys his father. “This is a military family,” his father reminds him, and his son’s friendship with someone Japanese would have a negative influence on the father’s career. Nonetheless, the two boys, along with a Hawaiian classmate, find themselves in a boat, watching in stunned amazement as the Japanese planes bomb and nearly destroy the American fleet. Adam, though slightly wounded, goes to the docks to look for his father. Somewhat improbably, he ends up wearing a navy uniform and carrying a rifle as he helps rescue sailors and guard the road in case of a land invasion. He eventually gets home and waits futilely with his mother and little sister until his father is declared officially missing-in-action and the family is evacuated back to the mainland. This holds the promise of an exciting tale, but Mazer does not fully develop his themes of father-son conflict, and there is a stilted, wooden quality to the writing as he tries to convey the horror and shock of the attack. Graham Salisbury’s Under the Blood Red Sun (1995) is a much more fully developed tale, set in the same locale, and Janet Taylor Lisle’s The Art of Keeping Cool (2000) is a more effective and involving story about boys during WWII. Mazer’s afterword on Pearl Harbor contains information about the Japanese in America at that time, but unfortunately his story does not effectively involve the reader with the requisite emotional intensity or dramatic narrative. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-84161-2
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2001




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