Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Summary: Louisa June is the youngest of five children who live with their tugboat captain father and a mother who often suffers from “melancholy”. World War II has begun, and there are rumors of German submarines attacking ships in the waters off of their Tidewater Virginia community. One day Louisa’s brother Butler, a gifted writer who’s gotten a full scholarship to William and Mary, goes on a job with his father. On the way home, their tugboat is torpedoed. Their father survives, but Butler does not. Mama goes into a deep depression, unable to get out of bed and blaming her husband for Butler’s death. Louisa June increasingly leans on Cousin Belle, an elderly woman with an adventurous past, and a force of nature who can take charge when the situation demands. As Louisa looks for ways to help defeat the Germans, she finds herself in dangerous situations and has to learn to lean on those around her, including her mother, who turns out to be stronger than any of them realize. Includes a 17-page author’s note with additional historical information that includes facts about Mama’s depression and anxiety. 320 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: With many starred reviews, this excellent historical fiction novel is likely to be on some Newbery lists this year. The memorable characters and well-researched history make it a great choice for fans of The War That Saved My Life and A Place to Hang the Moon.
Cons: I had high hopes for this book, but it never really grabbed me the way the aforementioned two WWII novels did. It sometimes felt like the author was trying a little too hard to tell the history at the expense of the story, particularly with Cousin Belle who seemed to have met an unlikely number of famous people during her WWI adventures. It’s gotten five starred reviews, though, so definitely check it out for yourself.