The tone is as welcoming as warm honey over corn bread. Ah, if only a coming-of-age novel could live by bread alone.
Pearsall, 2003 winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for historical fiction with Trouble Don't Last, presents the excellently researched tale of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, little known all-black paratroopers serving during WWII. Her tale of 13-year-old Levi Battle’s struggle to find his place in the world during World War II should be the kind of book teachers handpick for their students, especially reluctant-to-read males. However, if this effusive, lengthy story is bread and honey, the flavor, drowned in similes, metaphors and foreshadowing, gets diminished by too much “writing.” Strip away the excess, and you’ve got the tender story of a displaced boy hungry to connect with the war-hero father who is more legend than parent. Dumped at his Aunt Odella’s because his father is at war and his mama has run off, Levi is stunned to learn his aunt is packing him off to his father at a base in North Carolina. The Chicago boy is plunged into the racist South, with its separate drinking fountains and oppression that hangs like humidity.
The dawdling pace and obvious, militaristic similes combine to undercut its top-notch research and compelling premise for a disappointing conclusion. (Historical fiction. 10-14)