Review: My Secret War

My Secret War: The World War II Diary of Madeline Beck, Long Island, New York 1941 (Dear America)My Secret War
by Mary Pope Osborne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My Secret War (World War II) / 0-590-68715-8

"My Secret War" paints a wonderful portrait of America in 1941. Madeline cultivates a close friendship with her German-Jewish neighbors, and learns to tread respectfully around the fear and sadness they harbor. She is distraught when she learns of the Japanese-American citizens put in American camps for 'observation' and reminds her classmates to take seriously the meaning behind the president's wife's exhortation to not allow America to be divided by race or religion. Madeline organizes a club to collect scrap, metal, and stockings for the war effort, and tries to diligently answer her father's letters, hoping that a telegram won't arrive with news of his injury or death.

Madeline is, in many ways, a perfectly ordinary girl. She frets that the pretty girls at school don't acknowledge her. She crushes on her young boy friend, regaling him with tales of her father's bravery and heroism, but sometimes worrying that if he starts to like her in "that way" then she suddenly won't be free to be herself anymore. She is relieved when she finds that she can be a "girlfriend" AND a "girl friend" without having to sacrifice her personality or free spirit.

"My Secret War" takes a long and intriguing look at a different aspect of World War II - those who stayed behind in America. The women who joined factory jobs; the girls who initiated scrap metal drives and stocking collections. The children who lived knowing that fathers and brothers might not be homing home. The people who had to chose whether to fear or love their new European refugee neighbors and their old Japanese-American neighbors, and the sad consequences when the wrong choice was made. Through all this, fictional Madeline is strong, vibrant, and touchingly realistic.

~ Ana Mardoll

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