Learning about the history of submarine warfare in the Pacific Ocean during WWII might not be something you, or your middle schooler, are normally drawn to, but Dive! by Deborah Hopkinson is non-fiction history that you just might not be able to put down. The subject itself, submarine life (also known as the Silent Service), is intriguing and at times fascinating. The suspense of the stories told, since it centers around WWII, made it a nail biter at times. However, what truly makes this book shine is Hopkinson’s ability to tell the true stories in a way that grabs the reader’s attention and has them invested in the story, compelling them to read on. She then backs up these personal accounts with well-researched facts, side stories, and historical accounts. Her work is well documented, with suggestions interspersed throughout of ways to learn more, as well as a thorough bibliography at the end of the book. She uses first person accounts as well as direct quotes throughout the entire book and also adds many photographs, making this non-fiction book seem quite personal.
One can tell that Hopkinson knows her audience. To break up the book and make it seem less like a non-fiction book, she includes excerpts titled: Dispatch (interesting side stories), Submarine School (brief explanations of how life on a submarine works including things like what they eat and where they sleep), and Briefings (a little more detail/history about certain aspects of the service). While these add more depth to the history being told, I imagine it breaks the book up some for younger readers, making it seem less daunting to get through as well as making it a little more interesting. I found two of these excerpts particularly enjoyable. One not only explained what ballast was used for but also how one submarine had to use gold bars from the banks of Manila Philippians for ballast because the sandbags normally used were needed to protect the soldiers fighting on the beaches. Another lengthier excerpt tells the stories of several canine stowaways found on different submarines.
Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors and Submarines in the Pacific by Deborah Hopkinson is certainly a book that will appeal to history lovers, naval aficionados, and WWII buffs of the middle grade age. It would also make an amazing reference book on this subject with so many firsthand accounts, primary sources, and so many additional resources listed. However, it is so much more than that and should appeal to many more as it is the story of those sailors that served in the Silent Service. It is told in such a way that the reader will come away with a feeling that they learned a little history, but also with a feeling of gratitude for those who gave so much and received so little recognition.
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic Press (A Scholastic Imprint)
Profanity/Language: 6 religious exclamations. Note: Not counted in the tally but a group of submarines were given the name Hellcats and it used a couple of times in the book.
Violence/Gore: Reviewer’s note about the tallying done for this section: this is a book about war where the intention of every submarine mentioned in this book was to seek and destroy enemy ships. I did not count every mention of this nor every mention of having hit or sunk an enemy ship as it was part of their everyday conversation and because it was their job at the time. I did include those things when a specific event was being described as it happened or when there was specific mention or description of loss of life. Also the author does an excellent job in just saying enough so you can feel the loss or tragedy without going into any graphic details when it comes to acts of war.
Description of the bombing of Pearl Harbor; mention of seeing body parts in the water after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (no graphic details); soldier had a gun pointed at his face; mention of dead bodies lying around the deck of a ship after a bombing (no graphic details); description of a bombing raid and a sailor getting hit by debris which killed him (no details given); mention of how the rations of the POW camps was starvation level and how that affected the men; description of the casualties and destruction that resulted from a bombing raid by the enemy; account of oxygen getting so low that people were passing out; mention of the Bataan death march which resulted in the death of thousands; firsthand account of someone having a bullet fly right by his head; description of a 17 hour ordeal where the submarine had to stay submerged while the enemy dropped depth charges (submarine destroying charges) over and over again and what that was like; description of hitting a transport ship with enemy troops on it and the commander giving the orders to demolish any lifeboats and rafts that survived (implying the people on it as well); brief description of man receiving an appendectomy onboard a submarine; description of a fired torpedo changing course and heading back to the submarine that fired it resulting in the death of all but 9 men on board; mention of the dropping of the atomic bombs which resulted in the death of thousands; description given of the men rescued from the POW camps and how they only weighed 90lbs (one picture included); mention of bombing raids started to help end the war and how they resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians
Sex/Nudity: Husband and wife kiss goodbye.
Mature Subject Matter:
War and the atrocities that come with it, death, near death experiences.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
One man mentions how he smoked cigarettes; brandy given out to celebrate the end of the war.