________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 12 . . . . February 6, 2009

cover A Piece of Forever. (Streetlights).

Laurel Dee Gugler.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2008.
164 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 978-1-55277-026-9.

Subject Headings:
Mennonites-Juvenile fiction.
Children and war-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Libby McKeever.

*** /4


"Because we gotta...I mean we have to have a strong army in case there is another war." Then Tom adds proudly. "My Papa fought against Hitler."

"Good! And yes, it is important to maintain strong military reinforcements for our national security." There he goes with his big words again. "I also fought against the Germans.

"My family is German. That doesn't mean they like the horrible stuff that Hitler did during World War II, like killing millions of Jews. Anyway, on top of the horribly embarrassing Uncle Sam thing, I don't know what to think about this recruitment business, because my family and my church believe war is not a way to solve problems between countries. I look at Sandra and see that she feels bad too. She is staring at her desk. She looks confused.

Referring to the recruitment poster hanging in his classroom, Mr. Foster asked his pupils "What does Uncle Sam symbolize?" Rose joked that he didn't look like her uncle. She was subsequently admonished by her teacher, but the repercussions from her classmates went much further. Rose and her family are Mennonites and don't believe that violence should be used to settle problems. Her classmates and some of their families don't understand this philosophy, and Rose and her friend Sandra are labeled as "yellow-bellied chickens" and "cowards."

     Struggling with choosing a topic for their current events project, Rose reads an article about a memorial being erected in Hiroshima for Sadako, a young Japanese girl who had recently died. Rose learns about the atom bomb and how it caused leukemia in some people years after the bombing.

     As the class plans their Veterans Day celebrations, attitudes get heated, and Rose's classmates tell her that their fathers believe that the Mennonites are "sanctimonious" and don't love their country. Rose is miserable and confused. Even Rose's friend Sandra, annoys her, in her compliant and unquestioning attitude towards their religion.

     Part of their preparation for Veteran's Day is to invite a veteran to the ceremony at the school. Rose struggles with her letter to a Mr. Lambert, and then finally settles on telling him about her project and Sadako. She includes information about her beliefs and the confusion she feels about war and people's attitude towards her. Mr. Lambert is very perceptive and encouraging of Rose's thoughts, and when Rose turns her one-sentence speech into a information talk about Sakado and the far retching effects of war, it is Mr. Lambert who calls for her to continue and drowns out the naysayers.

     Although A Piece of Forever is a sequel to Catching Forever, it reads well as a stand alone novel. Author Laurel Dee Gugler has gently included explanations about the more mature aspects of the story without appearing too didactic. With the story set in 1950's America, the author's treatment of the value of differing beliefs is well presented, and Rose's spunky nature and introspective struggles will appeal to a variety of readers. I believe A Piece of Forever would be a good addition as a classroom novel or book club choice for libraries.

Highly Recommended.

Libby McKeever is the Youth Services Coordinator at Whistler Public Library in Whistler, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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