Kid Soldier

208p. photos. Dundurn Press. Sept. 2013. pap. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-4597-0677-4; ebook $8.99. ISBN 978-1-4597-0679-8.
Gr 7–10—A story set during World War II. Richard Fuller, 15, longs for a bicycle. He takes a series of odd jobs such as harvesting fruit and delivering bread to earn the money to buy one. His relationship with Mr. Black, the local baker, leads to the teen's interest in Morse code and an army training camp. Shortly after attending the camp, underaged Richard enlists in the Canadian army under a fake name. Maruno creates a well-realized world for Richard and her readers in every setting she places him, be it the humid house where his mother does her laundry work or the tense scouting and air-raid scenes in England. She even communicates the shift the hero experiences when he returns home from the war. The theme of family is skillfully woven throughout the novel. Mr. and Mrs. Black, the neighbors who love and mentor Richard, fill the void left by his grieving mother and his deceased father, a veteran who died when he was young. Richard's relationship with his mother realistically matures while he's away. However, the protagonist's near-perfect affability makes his likable character less believable. Maruno reveals in her author's note that Kid Soldier is based on her father's war experiences, which perhaps explains the idealized Richard. Iain Lawrence's B for Buster (Delacorte, 2004) is a good companion to this story.—Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY

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