BACK TO BATAAN by Jerome Charyn


Age Range: 10 - 12
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 In a veteran author's weak first novel for young people--set in 1943 New York--a boy bounces between the palatial Upper West Side digs of a hated classmate and a hobo's makeshift shelter in Riverside Park. Jack Dalton, 11-year-old scholarship student at a posh private school, has two ambitions: to enlist and avenge his father's death at Bataan; and to marry classmate Mauricette. When he mentions the latter in a composition, she dumps him for Alfredo, gloating scion of a school trustee. Invited to Alfredo's for a party, Jack sets a fire in the sink and flees to the park, where he falls in with a bum (``The Leader''), who charms him at first, then extorts money and is later arrested for unspecified crimes. Readers who dig deep will find a metaphorical level, but they're not likely to make the effort. Victory gardens and ration stamps aren't enough to establish a sense of time or place, while Charyn displays neither sympathy nor understanding for his young folk, who--unlike some of the adults (Jack's grieving mother; a German-American janitor)--show not a trace of genuine feeling or strength of character. The plot jibs arbitrarily, ending with Jack's graduation and a labored platitude about the value of a father figure. Wartime New York gets a livelier evocation in Avi's ALA Notable ``Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?'' (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 30th, 1993
ISBN: 0-374-30476-9
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993


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