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Modern Age

Author: Standish, Ali
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1939 - 1943
Geographic Area: North America
Country: United States
Topics: WWII
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Middle Grade, Upper Middle Grade
Format: Chapter Book
Published: 2022

Content Warning
child abuse

American History > Modern Age > WWII

From Ali Standish, award-winning author of The Ethan I Was Before, August Isle, How to Disappear Completely, and The Mending Summer, comes a captivating historical fiction middle grade novel about a boy on the home front in World War II who must solve the mystery of the disappearance of his best friend. Perfect for fans of Alan Gratz and Lauren Wolk, this riveting adventure explores what true heroism means.

"Multilayered, moving, and tremendously powerful.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Standish’s uplifting mystery tackles big themes of abuse, bullying, heroism, mental health, and prejudice.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A heartfelt tale about what it means to be a hero and take a stand against injustice.”—Booklist (starred review)

Danny Timmons has looked up to Jack Bailey ever since Jack saved two small children from drowning during the Great Flood of 1940. Now, with his father away fighting in World War II and his mother about to have a new baby, Danny relies on Jack’s friendship and guidance more than ever.

So when Jack goes missing without a trace from their small Appalachian town, Danny is determined to find him. He wonders if Jack’s abusive father could be behind his disappearance, or if it has anything to do with Yonder—a hidden magical town Jack once spoke of, where flocks of rainbow birds fly through the sky and they’ve never heard of war. As answers elude him, Danny begins to fear that he didn’t know Jack as well as he thought.

Ultimately, Danny’s investigation forces him to reckon with even larger questions: What is America fighting for in this war? What role do each of us play in stopping injustices, big and small? And is there such thing as a true hero?

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

“Both timely and historical. An exploration of what it means to be brave and do good.” —Tae Keller, Newbery Medal–winning author of When You Trap a Tiger

"A thoughtful, eloquent, and honest examination of prejudice, loyalty, and what it means to be brave." —Alan Gratz, New York Times bestselling author of Refugee and Ground Zero

“A beautiful and important novel that explores what it means to be a hero and the role of each of us to stand up for what’s right.” —Karina Yan Glaser, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanderbeekers series

Emily's Reivew

This is a definite contender for my favorite book of the year. I admit, I'm a sucker for World War II stories, and I'm always excited to find stories about life on the American homefront.

Standish has written a beautifully layered story about friendship, what it means to be a hero, coming-of-age and realizing the world isn't as rosy as you'd once believed. Danny has looked up to Jack Bailey as a hero for years. But in the small Appalachian town of Foggy Gap, Jack is an outcast. But Danny longs to be as brave as him. Only it takes Jack's disappearance to show him that being brave doesn't mean not being afraid.

Danny is a wonderful protagonist. I loved seeing him grow and change over the course of this story. The author wove so many important lessons into this story - it's about how to stand up to bullies, and how to fight against injustice in the world in both small ways and big. What it means to have courage, how to use it, and what war does to people.

The way the story unfolds, in both the current time and flashbacks, was masterful. I was riveted from beginning to end, and I didn't want to leave Danny and Foggy Gap behind when I closed the book. I could tell the author put a lot of effort into her research for this book because it really feels like you are there in the 1940s south. I loved reading about what life was like on the American homefront. I wondered, as I read about rationing and collecting scrap metal for the war effort if we could ever rally behind a cause like that today.

Finally, I really appreciated that the author brought attention to the fact that America was aware of the Holocaust while it was happening, but chose not to do anything about it. I think it's important to understand that there are many ways to be a hero, and while America did help to liberate the camps at the end of the war, it could have happened sooner if more people had been brave enough to stand up against that injustice.

All in all, I thought this story was beautifully told and I highly recommend it!

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