Format: Middle-grade fiction, hardcover
Rating: 5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review)
Genre: Historical Fiction
What did you like about the book? Everything. This book was fast-paced and utterly captivating. The author brings the year 1951 to life through the eyes of 12-year-old protagonist Pete Collison. Readers will be drawn right into Pete’s world, a world without cell phones, computers, or even television but with a rampant paranoia gripping the nation over the spread of Communism. Readers will sympathize with Pete’s struggles to do the right thing, and to puzzle out what the right thing actually is. They are also likely be surprised by the measures taken by the government and private citizens to uncover alleged Communist sympathizers. Avi’s author’s note at the end adds a great deal to the authenticity of the story. This is one of those wonderful books that entertains just as well as it educates. Kids, and even adults, will enjoy reading it for fun, but will also learn a great deal about this period in history. This book should spark excellent classroom and family discussions about everything from freedom of thought and bullying to family loyalty and the danger of jumping to conclusions. Baseball lovers and would-be detectives will enjoy it also, as the rivalry between the Dodgers and the Giants looms large in the story, and Pete is a lover of Sam Spade and hard-boiled detective stories.
Anything you didn’t like about it? There is something about the green glow and the boy’s face on the cover that may lead the reader to think this is science fiction rather than historical fiction.
To whom would you recommend this book? Read-Alikes? Boys and girls will both like this story, but this book is definitely going on my list of great reads for guys. As I read, I kept being reminded of The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. I would also recommend this book to kids who enjoyed Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. And of course, any reader who has enjoyed Avi’s many other novels should love this one too.
Who should buy this book? Elementary school and middle school libraries as well as public libraries should make sure they purchase this book.
Where would you shelve it ? Middle-grade fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, definitely.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Renee Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA
Date of review: December 5, 2014