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My Secret War: The World War II Diary of Madeline Beck, Long Island, New York 1941 (Dear America Series) Hardcover – September 1, 2000
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7-Maddie Beck, 13, lives with her mother in a Long Island boardinghouse while her lieutenant-commander father is stationed in the Pacific. Her mother rapidly fits in to their new community, but Maddie finds it difficult to make friends, until classmate (and crush) Johnny Vecchio learns that her father is in the Navy. After the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Maddie and Johnny organize a student group to sell war bonds, gather scrap metal, collect newspapers and used books, and make first-aid kits for the Red Cross. One restless night, Maddie takes a walk on the beach and encounters someone with a heavy accent and another threatening character. This night leads to more mysterious events that finally prompt her to call the FBI, which leads to the arrest of four Nazi agents. Then the Becks get a telegram that Maddie's father has been injured, and they prepare to move to San Francisco where he is to be hospitalized. Osborne has done an excellent job of capturing the feelings and anxieties of the time coupled with the concerns and uncertainties of young people. An excellent companion novel to Carolyn Reeder's Foster's War (Scholastic, 1998; o.p.).
Debbie Feulner, Northwest Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 5-9. Set in 1941, this title in the Dear America series features Madeline Beck, an eighth-grader adjusting to a new life in Long Island, New York. She longs for acceptance among her schoolmates and misses her father, a soldier stationed on the West Coast. Starting a club to aid the war effort helps, bringing personal pride, friendships, even romance into her life. Things become complicated, however, when she accidentally witnesses a suspicious beach rendezvous. As with many others in this series, the diary format mixes fact and fiction in a way that may confuse some readers, and the historical note at the back of the book skims the complex issues of the war. But the period details are fascinating--from references to songs and fashions to newspaper headlines and quotes from Roosevelt--and lively, complex Madeline deals with timeless teen dilemmas as she learns the importance of appreciating differences. A fast, engaging read that offers a glimpse into wartime America, especially the war's impact on teens. Shelle Rosenfeld
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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"My Secret War" paints a wonderful portrait of America in 1941. Madeline cultivates a close friendship with her German-Jewish neighbors, and learns to tread respectfully around the fear and sadness they harbor. She is distraught when she learns of the Japanese-American citizens put in American camps for 'observation' and reminds her classmates to take seriously the meaning behind the president's wife's exhortation to not allow America to be divided by race or religion. Madeline organizes a club to collect scrap, metal, and stockings for the war effort, and tries to diligently answer her father's letters, hoping that a telegram won't arrive with news of his injury or death.
Madeline is, in many ways, a perfectly ordinary girl. She frets that the pretty girls at school don't acknowledge her. She crushes on her young boy friend, regaling him with tales of her father's bravery and heroism, but sometimes worrying that if he starts to like her in "that way" then she suddenly won't be free to be herself anymore. She is relieved when she finds that she can be a "girlfriend" AND a "girl friend" without having to sacrifice her personality or free spirit.
"My Secret War" takes a long and intriguing look at a different aspect of World War II - those who stayed behind in America. The women who joined factory jobs; the girls who initiated scrap metal drives and stocking collections. The children who lived knowing that fathers and brothers might not be homing home. The people who had to chose whether to fear or love their new European refugee neighbors and their old Japanese-American neighbors, and the sad consequences when the wrong choice was made. Through all this, fictional Madeline is strong, vibrant, and touchingly realistic.
~ Ana Mardoll