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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Gr. 7-9. This is one of those stories that divides cleanly into before, during, and after. Adam lives with his military family in Honolulu and tries to make friends with the civilian kids at his high school. Tension builds over his father's implied order that Adam must not have friends whose parents are Japanese, and Adam's growing camaraderie with Davi Mori. Adam, Davi, and their Hawaiian compatriot, Martin, are fishing in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese planes begin to fire. The scenes that follow are not for the faint hearted: Adam's father's ship is bombed and sinking, Martin is wounded, and Davi is struck down by an American sailor. Then, Adam boards the West Virginia during a bloody battle. The chaos subsides, but the bitterness of prejudice and the numbness following his father's death remain with Adam. Written in the third person, a refreshing change of pace in historical fiction today, this economical story will grab readers from the beginning and draw them into Adam's point of view. Reader's ready identification with Adam, son of an authoritarian father and new boy at school, makes his electrifying experiences during the attack all the more riveting. With clearly drawn, sympathetic characters and a gripping story, this memorable novel lends itself to booktalks. --Carolyn Phelan

  Kirkus Review

In November of 1941, Adam Pelko is in yet another new high school. He’s a military brat; his father is a naval officer recently assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona and stationed in Pearl Harbor. Adam’s father is a spit-and-polish lieutenant who inspects the dust on the shelves and the wrinkles in the sheets in Adam’s bedroom. When Davi Mori, a classmate whose father was born in Japan, invites him to go fishing early Sunday morning, December 7th, Adam disobeys his father. “This is a military family,” his father reminds him, and his son’s friendship with someone Japanese would have a negative influence on the father’s career. Nonetheless, the two boys, along with a Hawaiian classmate, find themselves in a boat, watching in stunned amazement as the Japanese planes bomb and nearly destroy the American fleet. Adam, though slightly wounded, goes to the docks to look for his father. Somewhat improbably, he ends up wearing a navy uniform and carrying a rifle as he helps rescue sailors and guard the road in case of a land invasion. He eventually gets home and waits futilely with his mother and little sister until his father is declared officially missing-in-action and the family is evacuated back to the mainland. This holds the promise of an exciting tale, but Mazer does not fully develop his themes of father-son conflict, and there is a stilted, wooden quality to the writing as he tries to convey the horror and shock of the attack. Graham Salisbury’s Under the Blood Red Sun (1995) is a much more fully developed tale, set in the same locale, and Janet Taylor Lisle’s The Art of Keeping Cool (2000) is a more effective and involving story about boys during WWII. Mazer’s afterword on Pearl Harbor contains information about the Japanese in America at that time, but unfortunately his story does not effectively involve the reader with the requisite emotional intensity or dramatic narrative. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
Summary
December 7, 1941: A morning like any other, but the events of this day would leave no one untouched. <br> <br> For Adam, living near Honolulu, this Sunday morning is one he has been looking forward to -- fishing with friends, away from the ever-watchful eyes of his father, a navy lieutenant. Then, right before his eyes, Adam watches Japanese planes fly overhead and attack the U.S. Navy. All he can think is that it's just like in the movies. But as he sees his father's ship, the Arizona, sink beneath the water, he realizes this isn't make-believe. It's real.<br> Over the next few days, Adam searches for answers -- about his friends, the war, and especially, his father. But Adam soon learns sometimes there are no answers.
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