Review Detail

Kids Fiction 2919
Dogs of World War II
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Billie and her big brother, Leo, have lived with their great aunt Doff for a while, since their mother passed away, and their father eventually left after he lost his farm. Doff is brusque and no nonsense, but takes good care of them. When Leo must go off to fight in World War II, Billie knows that she will miss him dreadfully, especially now that her best friend Hazel is hanging out with Kit, a mean and popular girl. When Leo comes home to visit after basic training, he brings a fellow Marine, Denny, home with him. On the way, Denny has found an injured dog that he names bear, and brings the dog with him because he feels that Billie needs someone to care for with Leo gone. Doff grudgingly agrees to keep him, and Billie struggles to get him a collar, leash and food with her scanty babysitting money. When the men go back to the Marines, Denny is picked to be part of the Codetalkers, Navajo men who used their native language to transmit messages that could not be decoded by the enemy. Leo gets shipped to the Pacific, and Billie must deal with living on the home front, collecting salvage, saving money to buy stamps to trade in for a saving bond, and rationing food. Her new friendship with Tito, a boy whose father is working on Doff's ranch, is put to the test when the two fight and Tito is injured while out stargazing. Bear comes to the rescue on more than one occasion.
Good Points
Aside from Bruchac's Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two (2005), there are not many books that incorporate this bit of history. Even though this is not an #ownvoices book, Larson had sensitivity readers and did a lot of research to accurately portray Denny's experiences. While not exactly like her other dog books set during World War II, Duke, Dash, and Liberty, this is a great book to have on an underrepresented topic.

Billie's experiences on the home front are not that unusual, but it was interesting to see a book set out west that included the treatment of Mexican Americans. Tito suffers from being made fun of a lot, but he is very stoic about it. I hadn't known that there was such discrimination against Mexican Americans during this time period until I read Conkling's Sylvia and Aki (2011), and this, too, is a good topic to see addressed.

World War II continues to be a topic that fascinates young readers, and Code Word Courage will keep those obsessed with the era reading happily.
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