An exciting novel for young dog lovers.


Chips A Hometown Hero


West’s (Kalie Leads the Way, 2006) middle-grade novel tells a war dog’s history-inspired story.

Chips is a mischievous mutt who follows his nose without consideration of consequence. This sometimes gets him into trouble when it results in him chewing up the neighbors’ laundry, tearing up prize lilies, or sinking his teeth into the leg of a thoroughly distressed trashman. Other times, it results in heroics, as when he saves his family’s young son from drowning in the ocean. When the Japanese attack the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor and America is plunged into World War II, Chips qualifies for Dogs For Defense (his family expects the war to last no longer than six months). In boot camp, Chips is partnered with Pvt. Rowell; for three years, they serve together during some of the war’s most dangerous combat. Chips undergoes many of the same trials and stresses as his human counterparts: managing fear, losing friends, and even acclimating to civilian life. Along the way, he proves invaluable to the Allied war effort and becomes one of the most highly decorated K-9 soldiers in American history. West narrates the story in playful, energetic prose that mimics her protagonist’s point of view: “[Chips] had just begun to gnaw on an old garden glove when he looked up to see Mother stomping toward him with a dark look on her face.” The relationship between Chips and Rowell is genuinely affecting, and the book overall is a fine addition to the genre of children’s dog literature as well as a suitably tame yet informative war novel for younger readers. A dog’s perspective is perhaps not the best for communicating the nuances of international conflict or its human toll, but the book avoids overtly jingoistic or cartoonish portrayals of battle. Heroism in humans can be a complex concept that requires contextualizing; luckily, heroism in dogs is a much simpler matter. Chips is a war hero readers should have no trouble getting behind.

An exciting novel for young dog lovers.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0978672256

Page Count: 183

Publisher: Off Lead Publications

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...


The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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