The experiences of a 12-year-old in the Battle of the Atlantic are chronicled in this engrossing historical novel.
When a surfacing U-boat destroys their fishing boat and severely injures his older brother, Danny, off the North Carolina coast, Colton assumes his older brother’s identity and enlists in the U.S. Navy. After surviving the brutal trials of boot camp, Colton is assigned to a patrol craft, designed primarily for anti-submarine warfare. Colton’s ship first patrols American coastal waters looking for U-boats preying on merchant vessels, then is assigned to escort convoys traversing the North Atlantic. Operating in intensely adverse weather conditions, Colton’s ship battles “wolf packs” of several U-boats attacking convoys. In one action, the patrol craft is rammed and sunk by a U-boat. Colton’s closest shipmate is killed, and the surviving crew remain at sea in a lifeboat until rescued. A leg wound lands Colton in a hospital stateside and gains him an ensuing discharge from the Navy. The narrative is full of action but short on character development. If the idea of a 12-year-old enlisting in the Navy seems blatantly implausible, there is historical precedent. In an afterword, Watkins explains that his inspiration for the novel is the real-life experience of 12-year-old Calvin Graham, who enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific theater.
A briskly paced, action-packed, surprisingly realistic war story. (Historical fiction. 10-14)