Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Review: Bertie's War

Bertie's War, by Barbara Tifft Blakey, showed up in my mailbox a couple weeks back.  It was tough deciding what to do with it... but I ended up sitting down and reading it myself for purposes of this review.  I think that was the right decision for us right now.  At just under 200 pages, it was a pretty quick read for me.

Reviewing fiction is hard.  I want to tell you enough to get a flavor for the book, but I don't want to ruin the story either.  Well, here goes.

Bertie (Roberta) is starting 7th grade, in 1962.  I have to admit, this is the first historical fiction I've read set during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  This is not an era I know a lot about, but some of what I read really struck a chord with me.  I recall (a decade later) doing nuclear attack drills in school.  I remember how incredibly scary that was.  There is a school drill described in the story, and oh, I was so right there.  I thought the author nailed it in that description.

I vaguely remember discussions about bomb shelters too, though to the best of my knowledge, my family did not have one.  I distinctly remember signs in certain public buildings announcing where the fallout shelter was.

Anyway, the pervasive fear of nuclear attack was communicated well in the story.  But for Bertie, it isn't just fear of the Commies and nuclear blasts.  She is afraid of everything.  All of the time.  Her fear controls her life.

The plot takes a few twists and turns -- including some I wasn't exactly expecting -- and comes to a happy ending.  The ending, though, might have been a little too perfect.  It was a bit too much of "and they all lived happily ever after..." for me.

Do I recommend it?  Well, I'm not dropping everything to have my kids read it right now. Look at the "Books we're reading" box on the left... Cat of Bubastes (Ancient Egypt), Classic Myths (Ancient Greece mostly), The Trojan War (Greece & Troy).  I'm just not up to fast forwarding that many millennia right now.

But when we do get to the Twentieth Century again?  Yes, I will pull this book out and add it to our mix.  I think it will be great for the glimpse into the strain of the times.  And I think there are quite a few other conversations we can have.  Focusing on others.  Parenting styles.  Real fears vs. imagined ones.  And I think I could have fun coming up with some writing assignments for my boys from this.  Along the lines of "Rewrite this incident from Dad's point of view."  Or from her little brother's viewpoint.  Because this would be a totally different story through the eye's of anyone but Bertie.

The book is available from the publisher, Kregel Publications, for $8.

You can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about Bertie's War at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this book for free from Kregel Publications.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Unknown said...

Hi. This is Barbara Blakey, the author of Bertie's War. I've been eagerly awaiting reviews to show up because I care what readers think about my first attempt at fiction. Thank you so much for your candid review. I really appreciate it.

Debra said...

Thanks for coming to read my review, Barbara! I had no idea this was your first attempt at fiction. I hope you plan to continue!!

Kimberly said...

This is a really good review of the book.

Great job!