My Secret War: The World War II Diary of Madeline Beck,
Long Island New York, 1941
by Mary Pope Osborne
Dear America Diary Series
Unabridged, 3 hr. 15 min.
Barbara Rosenblat (Narrator)
April 1, 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Downloaded audio from my local library
“In a diary that brings to life the dramatic happenings on the home front during World War II, Madeline Beck is living in a boardinghouse with her mother while her father is on an aircraft carrier guarding the Pacific Coast. After discovering that a German U-boat has landed near her home - a little-known, true incident on Long Island - she and her classmates form "Kids Fight for Freedom" and participate in the home front war effort.”
This is another diary in the Dear America series this time focusing on the home-front effort during World War II. I haven’t read very much set during WWII, but what I have has primarily been set abroad. Not only was it new and interesting to see how the home-front reacted to the war, but also to see it from a child/teenager perspective was novel. We see many of the typical things such as book, blood, scrap and can drives, but I really liked how Madeline founded the “Kids Fight for Freedom” club. I’m sure that there were many such clubs like this where even the kids were doing what they could to ensure that their fathers/brothers/relatives would come home.
The main character’s father is in the military so we see what it is like to have a family member serving overseas. The letters that they send and receive are so precious to them and are a lifeline throughout the war. Madeline and her crush get caught up in the secret German U-boat landing. While this is a real event, it almost felt fantastical the way it was portrayed. The events surrounding the landing felt like right out of a spy/action novel rather than what you would necessarily expect from a Dear America novel.
This was a different take on the typical war story. There is sadness and dark times, but also times where the characters pull together to help each other through and forge deep ties with other community members. Even as an adult, I learned a lot about the way of life in a small town during this time period.
The narrator of this book was FABULOUS! I always say that when listening to a diary, the narrator has to be very convincing and truly evoke the character that they are voicing. You need to be able to believe that you are hearing the inner musings of the diary’s author – be in their brain perhaps. The narrator had the right mix of emotion, excitement, and sadness as were appropriate.
Author Mary Pope Osborne also has written Standing in the Light (another book from the Dear America series) as well as two books from the spin-off My America series (as well as other books). You can visit the author’s website for additional information about the books. If you are looking for activities to enhance your reading experience with your children, check out this discussion guide/lesson plan from Scholastic.
This book is currently out of print, but you can find it from used sellers or try your local library. Scholastic is currently working on re-releasing many of the books in the Dear America series as well as releasing new books in this series. More when it becomes available.
My reviews of other books in this series:
- Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie (Oregon Trail Diary)
- Winter of the Red Snow (Valley Forge Diary)
- I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly (Diary of a Freed Girl)
Reviews of this book by others:
Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court