At the height of the London blitz, Nick’s mother sends him to join his father on the family’s remote, ancestral timber plantation in Burma. Her gambit turns out badly: The invading Japanese soon seize the plantation, imprisoning his father in a brutal POW camp, and leaving 13-year-old Nick to endure hardship under Japanese overseers (whose characterizations are less complex than those of the diverse Burmese). As readers will expect from suspense-specialist Smith, Nick faces exciting situations (including several weeks in the estate’s secret catacombs), and details of Burmese politics, spirituality, and daily life weave an alluring backdrop. Some readers, however, may feel disoriented by Smith’s fragmented storytelling style, in which momentum often seems to consolidate around one character or plot development only to move suddenly in an entirely new direction. Still, this offering’s unusual setting deserves attention from historical fiction fans, who will appreciate the window on a rarely discussed theater of World War II. Grades 5-8. --Jennifer Mattson
About the Author
Roland Smithis the author ofZach's Lie, an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers;Cryptid Hunters;ThunderCave;Jaguar;The Last Lobo; andSasquatch. He lives outside of Portland, Oregon, with his wife Marie, who also writes children's books.