Thirteen year old Tommy Duncan isn’t interested in the news from Europe, news of war. It’s May, 1940, and it just might be the year the Brooklyn Dodgers win the series. And that’s the kind of news that interests Tommy. His friend, Beth, however, talks about the war in Europe all the time, and Tommy doesn’t understand half of what she’s talking about. But he still likes her a lot, even if she does try to get him to read the war news with her when they meet at Goldman’s Coffee Shop to walk to school together.
Tommy and his friends are seventh graders, but they act and feel younger. I think that’s because the story is set in 1940, before the U.S. entered World War II. Even though the kids in the story seem younger than thirteen in some ways, the story feels right, maybe because children didn’t take on a psuedo-sophistication as young as kids do now. They did take on responsibility, however. Tommy’s friend, Beth, does all the cooking and shopping for her family because her mother is dead. And Tommy takes more and more responsibility as the story progresses because his mother is dealing with a mysterious illness that makes her more and more dependent on Tommy and his dad.
The voices of the kids, especially Tommy the narrator, work well and help to set the story in another era. But today’s thirteen year olds and older may become impatient with Tommy and his straightforward way of thinking and talking and behaving. There’s not a lot of nuance or worldly sophistication here. I found it refreshing.