Review of War and Millie McGonigle

War and Millie McGonigle
by Karen Cushman
Intermediate    Knopf    224 pp.    g
4/21    978-1-9848-5010-2    $16.99
Library ed.  978-1-9848-5011-9    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-5011-9    $9.99

Cushman (The Ballad of Lucy Whipple) sets her WWII home front novel in 1941 San Diego, where feisty and headstrong Millie McGonigle is coping with…a lot. Grief at the recent death of her beloved grandmother. Gloom over the state of the world, “full of war and death.” Jealousy of her sickly younger sister, who takes up all their mother’s time and attention. Right before Gram died, she gave Millie a notebook and told her to use it to “remember the good things in this world…Things that seem lost or dead — keep them alive and safe in your book.” Millie turns the journal into “The Book of Dead Things,” recording every loss she hears about, every dead sand crab she finds on the beach, in an effort to avert disaster and keep her worst fears from happening. A new friendship, a growing warmth between Millie and her little sister, and a revised understanding of Gram’s advice — not to obsess about death, but to recognize and embrace life — begin to ease Millie’s pain. ­Cushman offers readers a sympathetic, spirited heroine and a vividly evoked setting, chock-full of ­sensory detail. “I…sniffed deeply of the rich, salty, fishy smell of the mud. Gulls screeched like rusty hinges as they soared above me, and flocks of curlews and sandpipers scratched for bugs for breakfasts. There was plenty of life on the bay but a peaceful stillness, too, that ­comforted me when I needed comforting.” Hand this to fans of books such as Jennifer L. Holm’s Our Only May Amelia (1999) and Turtle in Paradise (rev. 5/10).

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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