2015 Rocky Mountain Book Award — Shortlisted
A boy is thrown into the middle of history’s biggest war.
Fatherless and penniless, fifteen-year-old Richard Fuller wants a bike, so Mr. Black, the baker hires him to help with deliveries. Mr. Black entertains him with army stories and teaches him Morse code. He invites Richard to attend the opening ceremonies of the local 1939 military camp. Infatuated with army life, Richard takes part in Army training camp under an assumed name. When war looms, he makes the most impulsive decision in his life and enlists.
He travels to England, witnesses the terror of the Battle of Britain, the horrible death of a German pilot, is caught in the London Blitzkrieg, and is wounded himself. When his true age is discovered, Richard faces a possible court-martial.
Will Richard’s desire for adventure lead to disaster so early in his life?
In this historical coming-of-age story, a Canadian teenager joins the Army at the outset of WWII. Maruno (Cherry Blossom Winter) introduces 15-year-old Richard Fuller, who starts out performing odd jobs around his hometown of Niagara Falls in order to earn money for a bicycle, before he's introduced to the lure of armed service. Under a false name, the underage Richard enlists and quickly proves himself capable as a signalman. After training, he's sent overseas to England, where he comes face-to-face with the true cost and brutality of war. Maruno's attention to detail and loyalty to source material adds significant verisimilitude to the historical setting. However, the story itself is fairly skimpy, often skipping from one episodic event to the next without closure, creating a patchy effect that doesn't always support the gravity of the subject matter. As a result, characterizations also remain rudimentary; Richard goes from one job to the next, joins the Army, has a few adventures, and is deployed to England in quick succession. Rich in historical accuracy, light in story. Ages 12 15.