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This book, along with its six sequels, comprise one of my favorite young adult series. When I was in elementary school, I loved reading The Boxcar Children, because the kids were independent, creative, and able to survive on their own. For the same reasons, I also loved My Side of the Mountain. Marsden’s series creates that same combination of independence and survival skills in a group of modern day teenagers, struggling to survive and protect their homeland when it is invaded by enemy soldiers. Additionally, Marsden’s series also has a strong female lead character, which is unusual in an action series.

A disclaimer: You can’t think too hard about the plot. The specifics of the invasion and subsequent war are far from realistic. But nonetheless, the characters are fascinating, the action is exciting, and Marsden achieves a good balance between moving the story forward, and allowing his characters to grow and reflect on their actions and the consequences. I originally read this series in July of 2004. I am quickly devouring it again, and am enjoying it just as much the second time around.

Thin Wood WallsJoe Hanada’s family is forced into an internment camp during World War II. They are separated from Joe’s father and from their friends, home, town and most of their belongings. In spite of the hardships, Joe still loves America, and simply longs for the freedom to go home.

It was interesting to read this fictional account of a Japanese family, after reading In Defense of Internment, by Michelle Malkin last year. While this book ignores the valid war-time reasons for internment, Malkin didn’t address the human suffering of the thousands of innocents who were interred. Both books do, however, bring to light the failures of our government to protect the rights of citizens and the security of our country. Hindsight is 20-20.

Good Night, Mr. TomThis book is one of my favorites. I’ve borrowed it several times from the library to read, and enjoyed it so much, that I bought it for myself. (I rarely buy books for myself, until I’ve re-read them several times.)

Willie Beech is an evacuee, sent to the English countryside to escape the German bombing of London. He has been abused by his mother, and so he expects the same from Mr. Tom, who has agreed to care for him. However, Mr. Tom, while somewhat of a recluse, is a kind man, who grows to love Willie as a son.

This fictional account of a boy who overcomes terrible abuse has a much cleaner ending than the real-life stories that Torey Hayden chronicles. While it may be somewhat sugar-coated, the story still draws you in. I think the magic behind the book lies in Mr. Tom’s character. Mr. Tom takes in a refugee, gives him a loving home, helps him through difficult times, gives him gifts, rescues him from danger, and calls him “Son.” As a Christian, I can’t help but seeing God’s love for us reflected in Mr. Tom’s love for Willie.

When the Soldiers Were GoneA short book about a Jewish boy who was hidden with a Christian family in Holland to escape the Nazis during WWII. When his real parents come to claim him back, he has no memory of them.

Amaryllis Jimmy and his brother Frank have always stood together against their alcoholic father. When Frank leaves home to join the army, and is sent to Vietnam, his letters are the only thing that keep Jimmy going.

This book was very depressing. The main characters weren’t terribly likeable, and even though you want to find out if Frank will come home safely, in the end, it doesn’t seem to matter.

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