In the summer of 1968, Reenie Kelly learns about the costs of war and peaceful opposition.
New in Lake Liberty, Minnesota, where she and her brothers now live with her grandmother since their family was bankrupted by her mother’s fatal illness, 11-year-old Reenie takes on a paper route and strikes up a correspondence with one of her customers, reclusive H.W. Marsworth, a World War I draft resister. Reenie’s older brother Billy also faces the draft, since he doesn’t have the money for college, one way to avoid or at least postpone fighting in Vietnam. Reenie is determined to keep him out of the war, and both Mr. Marsworth and her Army pen pal, Pfc. Skip Nichols, support her goal. This heart-tugging story is told entirely in letters, mostly between the loquacious Reenie and her elderly customer, hers in faux hand printing on lined-paper backgrounds and his typed. These letters demonstrate their growing friendship as well as Reenie’s developing activism and increasing understanding of what nonviolence really entails. There’s also the revelation of a surprising family secret. The moral dilemma is laid out clearly for young readers; the author makes clear that there are no easy answers, though Billy’s problem is conveniently solved. The book seems to subscribe to the white default.
Moving and thought-provoking for middle-grade readers. (Historical fiction. 9-12)