What You Need to Know:|
• The threat of war hangs in the air as a group of kids wage their own battle of boys versus girls.
• The beginnings of boy/girl relationships are explored.
• War and a fear of dying are concerns of the main character who sometimes prays for help.
• The setting is a small town in Missouri in the early 1960’s.
• There are references to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
• While the main character is a girl, this story should appeal to both boys and girls.
Juliet Klostermeyer, the main character, is going through a rough time. Her best friend, Lowell, only wants to hang out with the two air force brats that recently moved to town and, to make matters worse, they act like girls are second-class citizens. Her family is either preoccupied or fighting, the girls in her grade are suddenly boy crazy, and her grandfather, the only one who gave her any attention, recently passed away. On top of all that, it’s 1962 and the threat of war seems imminent, making Juliet wonder if she’ll even have a chance to grow up. With all that in mind, when the new girl, Patsy, moves to town, Juliet is hopeful that she’s found a new best friend and that life will take a turn for the better. Unfortunately, things don’t turn out exactly as she’d hoped.
Just like the real war that they fear might happen if the Communists use their nuclear weapons, the 5th graders in this story play out their own war between the sexes. As the fighting escalates, they discover that, as can be the case with grown up battles, both sides suffer losses regardless of who wins in the end. The challenge, as they call it, starts innocently enough. Sort of like a game, the boys and girls come up with tests for each other to see which gender is better. Things get out of control when some of the kids refuse to back down even when things turn dangerous. In the end, they do learn their lesson when they come to understand the value of friendship and the foolishness of conflict. None of the characters are as appealing as I would have hoped, but the incorporation of historical elements brings a new twist to the typical friendship issues that will interest most kids.
2010, 224 pages
Family Life, Friendship, Growing Up, Identity, Illness/Death, Siblings, War
• Which of the characters do you identify with the most?
• Did the adults know enough about what the kids were doing and how they were feeling?
• Should the adults have been more involved? What could they have done?
• Are there events happening in the world today that worry you? Who do you talk to when you're worried?
• Do other kids have the right to tell you who your friends are? What would you do if someone tried to do that to you?
• What are some qualities of a good friend?
• How can boys and girls continue to be friends despite the pressure from other kids?
• How do you handle a bully? Why do some kids become bullies?
• Did anyone really win in the boy/girl challenge?
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