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Book Review of "One Boy's War", by Nancy McDonald


One Boy's War, by Nancy McDonald, is the anticipated sequel to Boy from Berlin.  These young adult novels are true-to-life adventures inspired by historical events. The plot of One Boy's War follows the exploits and struggles of ten-year-old Kafer Avigdor as he and his family strive to survive war-torn Europe in 1940.

The tribulations of war are immediately apparent from the opening paragraphs, told in Kafer's voice.  Kafer, his older sister, brother, and mother are traveling on the ocean liner SS Somerville sailing from London to Halifax when the ship is hit by a German torpedo. His terrifying ordeal includes boarding a tossing lifeboat, a miraculous rescue, and a mysterious stranger.


On the rescue ship, Kafer's back story is revealed to new friends, Freddie and Fiona. The family is returned to London and reunited with their father, who is a well-respected airplane engineer and inventor engaged in the RAF war effort.  In London, living in a posh hotel, the family shares normal peace-time activities of shopping and exploring the area within a wartime background of sirens and blackouts. Kafer is a curious, adventurous young boy with an out-going personality and active imagination. He sees himself as a spy for the Allies.  His creative photography gets him into exciting escapades as he tries to catch a jewel thief, thwart Nazis spies and save his father's life.

Kafer and his brother Peter set out to investigate a suspicious American, who they discover speaks German and claims to be with the British Secret Service. The suspense builds as they sleuth the hotel. Writing short phrases in the German language with translations, the author intensifies the exciting plot. The author includes many historical references to the Gestapo. She writes of the deafening sounds of bombs dropping, "the ack-ack of anti-aircraft fire," searchlight beams and the purpose of barrage balloons, enormous grey balloons that defend against the Luftwaffe by causing pilots to fly into the cables and crash. The reader gets to visualize wartime from the young protagonist's point of view. The introduction of some British terms such as  loo, WC (water closet), and lavatory adds authenticity to the story.

One Boy's War is a fictional narrative that mixes intensely researched facts with an imagined personal account offered through an adolescent's eyes.  This is an example of Historical Fiction that provides a riveting perspective of a time and its events to fascinate middle school readers.  McDonald moves her adventurous story along quickly, keeping its intriguing plot always exciting and entertaining to read.

Kafer says, "I was proud to be in England. Proud to be on the side that that was fighting Hitler… I had to do my part…"  


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