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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Aiden is the son of a fisherman on the south coast of England, and he's feared the ocean since his oldest brother's ship was sunk by a German U-boat. But that doesn't matter when he and his best friend Sally hear chatter on their radio. Allied troops, including Aiden's surviving brother, are trapped in France, surrounded by German forces. The British military have come up with a daring plan to save as many troops as possible, bringing them across the Channel to safety -- but they'll need every boat they can get their hands on. Aiden's parents forbid him from going, but he and Sally know they can help, and set off to join Operation Dynamo on their own. It's a harrowing journey, and the pair are in grave danger as they help ferry troops from Dunkirk, searching for Aiden's brother all the while. It will take an entire village for them to realize that as long as people are willing to help those who need it, there's hope for a brighter tomorrow.…

Courageous: A Novel of Dunkirk

by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Overall Book Review:

In Courageous, Yona Zeldis McDonough brings the battle of Dunkirk to life in a way that allows children to vicariously share some of the wartime experience without sacrificing the heroism and the sense of danger inherent in that heroism. The protagonists are young teenagers growing up in a small town with their families. The Battle of Dunkirk is a superb choice on the part of the author, since it allows the characters to be non-military and therefore more easily related to the young target audience.

McDonough’s writing style is clear and concise, and the story moves along at a pace that is swift and doesn’t include much superfluous information. The only aspect of the book that some readers may not like is the fact that it is written in the first person. It seemed strange, and was distracting, to read about a time that the reader knows is many years in the past, but to read it as if it is in the present.

All in all, this is an excellent book for children. The major characters are heroic, patriotic, and willing to risk their lives for other people. The overwhelming theme is that even ordinary people can do extraordinary things when the times call for it.

Review of an Advance Reading Copy

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic Press (A Scholastic Imprint)

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation. (Note:  There are also a few uses of “God”, such as prayers and offering thanks, and these are not counted in the tally.)

Violence/Gore:  A character has a few dreams about a boat wreck; a character has wounds from a prior battle; a character elbows and shoves others; a radio report of a battle; a few reports of injuries and death in war; a few scenes of troops making their way through bombed territory with property damage and human and animal casualties, none of which are graphically described; a character passes out from injury and exhaustion; downed planes and shipwrecks from previous battles are described; wounded men call for help after a battle; a brief, non-graphic battle scene with guns and grenades in which a character is killed; the term “suicide mission” is used; a vehicle is damaged by a bomb; a few battle scenes, which include property destruction, fist fights, aerial bombings, ship sinkings, and deaths; a character drowns; bodies are carried away after a battle; a character helps to carry another who is badly injured by a grenade; a character is wounded by shrapnel; a character is knocked unconscious. 

Sex/Nudity:  A character carries a picture of himself and his girlfriend; a character comfortingly holds the hand of someone of the opposite gender.

Mature Subject Matter:

War; death (family member, friend).

Additional content mentioned in the afterword, which contains history facts: Religion as racial discrimination (in context of WWII); suicide; atomic bombs; mass murder; homosexuality; concentration camps.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

An adult drinks ale; pain medication is used in a battle setting.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

My taste in literature leans heavily towards sci-fi, fantasy, and (my favorite) horror, and the latter can present some fairly murky waters for parents to let their children explore. I enjoy novels of both the standard and graphic varieties. Since those genres, and graphic novels in particular, tend to appeal to boys, I hope that I can help other Boy Mommies in their quest to find books that their little video gamers--I mean, future bibliophiles will read and enjoy. When I am not reading, I enjoy tabletop role-playing games, video games, and singing karaoke. I have a wonderful husband who lets me indulge my reading habit by sharing the housework and being a great dad to our genius kids and their faithful hound.