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The Art of Keeping Cool (Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction (Awards)) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 1, 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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A New Class (Star Wars: Jedi Academy #4)
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Victor Starspeeder is psyched to be starting school at the Jedi Academy. His sister, Christina does not share an enthusiasm for Victor's newfound educational path. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following the tradition of Summer of My German Soldier, this wrenching WWII novel traces the relationship between two 13-year-old American boys and a German-born expressionist painter reputed to be a spy. After narrator Robert's father enlists as a pilot, Robert, his mother and younger sister move in with Robert's paternal grandparents in a small town on the coast of Rhode Island. Robert despises his hot-tempered grandfather, but finds a companion in cousin Elliot, a sensitive boy with a remarkable talent for drawing. Though Robert introduces Elliot as having "mastered the art of keeping cool," Elliot's actions belie his anxieties and nervous tics (e.g., he doesn't fit in at school, and he chews on the skin between his thumb and forefinger whenever he's troubled); and the 1950s phrase seems out of sync with the time period. When Elliot befriends the German painter, Abel Hoffman, Robert fears for his cousin's safety and the unleashing of his grandfather's wrath if the friendship were discovered. However, Robert is unprepared for the sudden explosion of hatred by the townspeople when their suspicions against Abel are aroused. As apt at writing historical fiction as she is at penning fantasy, Lisle (The Lost Flower Children; Afternoon of the Elves) weaves together an intriguing web of family secrets and wartime fears while encapsulating the wave of patriotism sweeping the nation in the 1940s. The intimate first-person narrative brings universal themes of prejudice and loss to a personal level as the boys and their artist friend discover the destructive power of war on the home front. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7-Despite a misleading title (the word "cool" does not conjure up the 1940s), this is a well-drawn story that is part coming-of-age, part mystery. Robert and his mother have come to live with his grandparents on the Rhode Island coast in 1942, soon after his father has gone off to fight in the war. The coastal residents are getting ready for war and a German painter, living like a hermit on the outskirts of town, has raised suspicions of being a spy. To complicate matters, Robert's cousin Elliott, also an artist, is at odds with their grandfather, an imposing patriarch prone to anger. As the summer unfolds, the tension mounts. Robert and his mother wait anxiously for word from the front; Elliott grows more unhappy at home as he befriends the painter; the town turns against the outsider with tragic consequences; and Robert finally learns why his father has been estranged from his family. The focus is clearly on the men of the household, and cursory treatment is given to the women's feelings and thoughts. Although women in such situations are indeed often overshadowed by their husbands or fathers, the emotional depth of this story is undercut by their portrayals. Still this is a heartfelt story about family dynamics and the harmful power of prejudice and hatred.
Cyrisse Jaffee, formerly at Newton Public Schools, MA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 730L (What's this?)
  • Series: Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books; 1st edition (October 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689837879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689837876
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,334,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's during World War II and Robert's father, Ken, has gone off to join the Royal Air Force of England. Robert and his family moved out to live with Grandpa, against Ken's wishes. Ken and Grandpa have never gotten along for some reason, and Robert is determined to find out why. Elliot and Robert join a German artist, turning the whole community against them, because of the fear that he may be spying for their enemy in war, Germany. Grandpa and Robert don't get along, and family tensions boil again as "civil war" breaks out with the next generation.
I loved this book because of the build up of character that Janet Taylor Lisle creates. Everyone is an individual. Grandpa is always angry. Grandma is always trying to protect people from Grandpa. Robert's mother is always quiet. Elliot is always drawing life in W.W.II. And father like son, Robert and his father always think things through and stand up to Grandpa. I would contrast Janet Taylor Lisle to Philip Pullman because they are the exact opposite. Pullman likes to write deep fantasy while Lisle likes to write shallow fantasy. Pullman writes about things that he imagined while Lisle writes about history.
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A Kid's Review on March 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Not long after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Robert Saunders and both his mother and sister Carolyn were obligated to sell their costly farm and relocate to Rhode Island. Robby's father, an air force pilot, was deployed and sent across the Atlantic to Europe. Without his help on the ranch, it would suffer so Robert's mother resigned to the safe quarters of her father-in-law's cottage. There, along with their other relatives on Sachem's Head, Robert grew to become good friends with his cousin Elliot, a young but gifted artist. As Robby grew closer to Elliot, he was trusted with the friendship of another artist, a poor German exile who escaped to America and found shelter in the forests of Sachem's Head beneath an overturned sailboat. The German, Abel Hoffman, never did make friends with any others in the village for they thought of him as a burden of the war and sometimes a spy, something that for Elliot never crossed his mind. Because of the town's distaste for Abel, he was sent reluctantly to prison several times and while gone, his paintings were burned. When Abel saw the smoke, he sprinted towards his makeshift home, and after witnessing the burning works of art, Hoffman strode into the flames, killing himself and leaving Elliot without a close, understanding friend and teacher. Though it may seem as if that were enough wrongs to go on in one read, it was not, for at home other troubles arose. It was a great relief when Robby's father finally returned to America and life went on, Elliot attending an arts college in Chicago and Robby going on to medical school. The Art of Keeping Cool is a multi layered tale of the hardships of war at home for the families. Janet Taylor Lisle conjured up a heart wrenching read that helps you to see in others' eyes. It is one that I thoroughly enjoyed.Read more ›
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A Kid's Review on March 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
It is the spring of 1942, a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
America is at war with the Germans, and the Japanese. Also known as World War Two. Robert, a thirteen-year-old boy that lives in Sachem's Head, Rhode Island has to live thought this amazing, and confusing experience called `WAR'.
Robert's amazing experience starts in the book "The Art Of Keeping Cool", By Janet Taylor Lisle. Robert is the main character of the book, with his cousin, Elliot at his side. Elliot is the kind of boy who is shy, and sits in the corner at dinnertime. He is not really notices by, but that doesn't stop him from drawing his amazing artwork, and seeing Abel Hoffman. Abel Hoffman is a German artist that lives in the woods of Sachem's Head. The whole town has turned their backs on him because he is German. People start to think he is a German spy, so they start terriorsing him, and soon it comes to the F.B.I searching his house. He didn't even do anything, but they have to be suspicious for their own safety. This is just one example of what war does to people.
Robert finds himself caught in the middle, when Elliot starts to go to Abel's house everyday. Should he cover up for his cousin? Tell his family?, or ignore him? This is only one of Robert's fears (or conflicts of the book) that he has to deal with including war, his hot-tempered grandpa, and discovering the family's secret.
If I could only tell you the ending, because it's so shocking and exciting, but your going to have to wait and see what happens with Elliot, and Abel. Does Robert come to find the family secret? Or will this war ever end?
I think that this book tells me, or teaches a lesson about life, that you have to learn to face your fears, and learn to trust people, like Abel.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The characters in this book are very strong, very sympathetic, and in a situation that children of any age can identify with. Having read this book, I was able to recommend it to my male students. It has no love story line, so you can discuss it in class or with mixed age (adult and students) with no embarrassment. It is based on real events and deals with emotions and mob dynamics that are perennial human problems,

The title isn't flashy, but the substance of this book is!

Recommended for reading: as a class, parents and children reading a chapter each night, grandparents and grandchildren to discuss and share, in remembrance of our veterans, when fear makes whole cities and countries behave in horrible ways.
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