BookBrowse Reviews Willow Run by Patricia Reilly Giff

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Willow Run

by Patricia Reilly Giff

Willow Run by Patricia Reilly Giff
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2005, 160 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2007, 176 pages

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Giff's engrossing, heartwarming story will help readers understand how personally war affects people. Ages 9-12

From the book jacket: It's 1944 and Meggie Dillon's life has been turned upside down by World War II. Her older brother Eddie enlisted and was shipped off to fight in Europe. And people say that anywhere else Grandpa would be turned in because he's German, and people might think he's a spy. Is it true? Could Grandpa be taken away?

Meggie's father has announced that they must help the war effort and move to Willow Run, Michigan, where he'll work nights in a factory building important war planes that will help fight the enemy in Europe. Willow Run will be the greatest adventure ever, Meggie thinks. There she meets Patches and Harlan, other kids like her whose parents have come here to do their part in the war. And there she faces questions about courage, and what it takes to go into battle, like Eddie, and how to keep hope alive on the home front.

Comment: Readers first met eleven-year-old Meggie Dillon in Giff's Newbery Honor Book Lily's Crossing (1997). Meggie's family have moved from Rockaway, New York, to a makeshift house in Willow Run, Michigan so her father can help the war effort by helping to construct B-24 bombers. Like Katie in the Newbery Award Winning Kira-Kira Meggie has had to deal with prejudice; in her case because her grandfather is a German American; but at least she doesn't have to be embarrassed by him in Willow Run as he's stayed behind in Rockaway, but then she finds herself missing him keenly; she misses her best friend Lily too; but everything pales compared to the news that her brother is missing in action in Normandy.

Giff weaves a number of story threads together against a realistic 1940s backdrop that will have children aged 9-12 thinking hard about important issues such as the meaning of courage and cowardice and how war leaves no person unaffected." If a child in your life is yet to discover Patricia Reilly Giff, I suggest a trip to the library or bookstore post-haste to pick up Willow Run or virtually any other of Giff's 60 books.

I suspect that some children have built bad associations to historical fiction books as this is the dominant genre of "have to read" literature in classrooms - at least that's the case here in California where the Social Studies and English curriculum are combined into one "core" class, with the result that the teachers tend to kill two birds with one stone and set books to study for English that also fit with the history element of the social studies curriculum. As a result it's quite possible that many children have never read an historical fiction book for fun. However, if they can be persuaded to lift their noses out of the latest fantasy read for just a few minutes to try a book by Patricia Reilly Giff they just might find themselves hooked!

This review is from the February 21, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.



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