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Private Peaceful Heroism or cowardice? A stunning story of the First World War from a master storyteller. Full description
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STARRED December 20, 2004
Cooper's (Jewish Holidays All Year 'Round) thoughtful if belabored novel centers on 12-year-old Sam, with a Jewish father and Christian mother, who feels caught in the middle-especially this holiday season. Since the family dog has pulled down the Christmas tree (or "Hanukkah bush," as his father insists they call it), presents will be arranged around the menorah, for the first time putting more emphasis on Hanukkah than Christmas. On Christmas Eve, which coincides with the first day of Hanukkah, Sam witnesses the clashing traditions of his feuding Jewish and Christian grandmothers, and he decides to ask God something that has been plaguing him: "What I want to know is, why can't people practicing different religions get along?" This question assumes greater proportions when Sam's class begins studying the Holocaust ("How could You let this happen?" he asks God), and when the boy learns they had a relative who was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. In a rather strained subplot, Sam becomes smitten with Heather, a classmate he thinks is "cute," but whose mean-spiritedness (he finally realizes) is rooted in racism. Although the narrative becomes encumbered by some rather pointed exposition and repetitious discussion, Cooper introduces a likable young protagonist and raises some searching questions about tolerance, injustice, commitment to religion and communicating with God. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Horn Book Magazine
(November 1, 2004
(Middle School, High School) An ironically named soldier, Private Thomas Peaceful, spends a sleepless night reviewing his past: "I've had nearly eighteen years of yesterdays and tomorrows, and tonight I must remember as many of them as I can." Is he on military watch? Conducting a vigil? As the hours (and chapters) tick from "five past ten" to "one minute to six" the following morning, Tommo recalls growing up in rural England at the turn of the twentieth century with his older brother, Charlie -- protector, best friend, and chief rival for the affection of their beguiling friend Molly. Exquisitely written vignettes explore bonds of brotherhood that cannot be broken by the physical and psychological horrors of the First World War. We eventually learn the reason for Tommo's sleepless night in a shattering, unexpected conclusion that is all the more effective for the stoicism with which the two brothers accept their separate but tragically entwined fates. Copyright 2004 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
(November 1, 2004
Gr 7 Up-At 15, Thomas Peaceful, like many other English soldiers in World War I, is too young to fight, but he lies about his age. Now at the front in France with his older brother Charlie he stands a lonely nighttime vigil for reasons that are not explained until the book's end, watching the minutes tick by and reflecting on his past. Using first-person narration, Morpurgo draws readers into this young man's life, relating memories that are idyllic, sobering, and poignant. Tommo thinks upon the role he played in his father's accidental death, the adventures that he shared with Charlie, his relationship with his childhood friend Molly, and the experiences that he has had since entering the war. Finally, he describes how Charlie disobeyed a direct order to stay with him after he was wounded in action, fully aware of this decision's dire consequences. While this story is not based on any one individual, Morpurgo has personalized the British tactic of executing their own soldiers "for cowardice or desertion," memorializing these men without passing judgment. While readers see the events through Tommo's eyes, the author does not lose sight of the war's effects on the teen's friends and family. Reminders come in the form of letters from home, rel
From the Children's Laureate of England, a stunning novel of the First World War, a boy who is on its front lines, and a childhood remembered.
"They've gone now, and I'm alone at last. I have the whole night ahead of me, and I won't waste a single moment of it . . . I want tonight to be long, as long as my life . . ." For young Private Peaceful, looking back over his childhood while he is on night watch in the battlefields of the First World War, his memories are full of family life deep in the countryside: his mother, Charlie, Big Joe, and Molly -- the love of his life. Too young to be enlisted, Thomas has followed his brother to war and now, every moment he spends thinking about his life, means another moment closer to danger.
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