CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 13. . . .November 27, 2009.
D-Day: Lieutenant Andy Pope, Normandy 1944. (My Story).
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2008.
192 pp., pbk., $6.99.
World War, 1939-1945-Campaigns-France-Normandy-Juvenile Fiction.
Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.
Review by Jonine Bergen.
I ran up the first of the ladders to be placed and jumped over the promenade railings. The whole area beyond was pitted with craters for the navel bombardment.
“Head for the anti-tank ditch!” I shouted as more of the men joined me. “Use the craters for cover and move in short rushes.”
We were still too far to the right of the three houses, from which the flashes of machine-gun fire had commenced as soon as we appeared. I was shocked to see Corporal Gray flung backwards by a burst just as he reached the top of the ladder.
Andy Pope was a 17-year-old British boy when he decided to volunteer for the Army in 1942. Things were not going well for Britain at that time, and he felt he should follow his friends and serve his country willingly instead of waiting to be called up. Hence, D-Day is the fictionalized story of the traumatic events of World War II that changed idealistic boys into experienced officers and soldiers in a very short span of time.
D-Day follows the successful formula of the “My Story” series published by Scholastic. In each book of the series, an historic event of World War I or World War II is depicted through the eyes of a young man trying to survive the experience. As with the other “My Story” novels, D-Day includes historical notes, a timeline of events, and pictures to provide authenticity to the tale.
Bryan Perrett is an experienced author who has written many books on war including U-Boat Hunter. He begins D-Day in 1945 by having his hero recount the experiences he had as a raw recruit in 1942, climaxing with the Normandy Landing in June 1944. Thus, Lieutenant Andy Pope tells the reader his personal story. He does not try to span the whole of the conflict. Instead, he focuses on the 18 month period where he struggled to become an officer and learned what it meant to command a platoon of men, many of whom were killed. Along the way, the reader learns some of the weaponry and tactical strategies employed during the conflict.
Perrett paints a matter-of-fact portrait of war: people are killed, Andy is hurt and the men just continue to push forward and survive. Through Andy’s interactions and reactions to the members of his platoon and with the other officers, Perrett is able to show the reader the men who served in the army as real people who joked, made mistakes, and felt fear and anger. By showing us the variety of men Andy worked with –– including the quirky and shady characters - Perrett creates realistic people instead of idealized heroes.
My guest reader was a 10-year-old boy who had not been introduced to war fiction before. Although he admitted he did not understand all the terminology, for example OCTU or AVRE, he did want to know what happened to men like Andy and asked many questions about the war while he was reading. Reading D-Day was an effort for him as he would often have to chew on a phrase or an event before continuing his reading. In contrast, I have a number of readers in grades seven through nine who are war buffs and who will, undoubtedly, swallow D-Day as quickly as they have the other “My Story” titles.
The titles in the “My Story” series, including D-Day, are excellent additions to the historical fiction collection of a middle-year library. As an added bonus, many of the titles support the English and Social Studies curricula.
Jonine Bergen is a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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