Set in 1943-44 Seattle, Jennie’s War by Bonnie Hinman is another novel in the Sisters in Time series from Barbour.  I like historical fiction. I think it can put a face on history, especially for kids.

In this book nine-year-old Jennie’s life has changed dramatically because of World War II.  Her family has taken on the responsibility of running a hotel for its Japanese owners. She and her siblings must pitch in, like it or not, sweeping and mopping floors, folding sheets, and making beds. Living in the hotel also puts the children in contact with some interesting and sometimes challenging people.

War brings new fears. Jennie’s oldest brother, like many of the young men in her community, is fighting in the war. Her family waits anxiously for letters from him and Jennie prays regularly for his safety. The story does not dwell on the family’s fear, but it does not minimize it either.  Jennie’s teacher’s husband is killed in action and Jennie wrestles with being mad at God.

The novel seems to have good historical details and will help kids grasp what living in the US during WWII was like from a kid’s point of view. The kids in the novel plant Victory gardens, gather scrap metal, rubber and waste fat for the war effort, listen to the war news on the radio, participate in patriotic events and long for rationed items like sugar, cocoa and gasoline.

Jennie, her younger brother and their friends have some funny misadventures which will delight young readers. Though the book is episodic, there is a mystery involving a man who comes to live at the hotel which gives the novel some ongoing suspense. (The kids believe he is a spy, but discover he is counterfeiting ration books.)

Much of the plot revolves around a fierce rivalry between Jennie and her eight-year-old brother. This competitive spirit continually gets both of them into trouble until they learn how to put it aside. Jennie’s War is a good book for upper elementary children. I think the title is unfortunate however. Jennie’s brother plays a big part in the story and I think the book could interest boys as well as girls.

Nancy

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