Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Missing in Action by Dean Hughes

Dean Hughes has become a master storyteller when it comes to capturing the reality of war, especially the time of World War II. Adult readers may be familiar with his Children of the Promise series, and the follow-up Hearts of the Children series. They may also know his stand-alone novel Saboteur, one of most intense and well-written spy novels I've ever read.

Younger readers may have already discovered Soldier Boys and Search and Destroy, both excellent novels that take MG/YA readers into the heart of battle and the cultural obstacles that too often keep us apart.

Missing in Action is no different. Jay Thacker is growing up in the Mormon community of Delta, Utah. Although he is part Navajo, his baseball skills and the respect his grandfather has from the other residents help him fit in, if you can call being nicknames "Chief" against your will as being accepted. The other kids think that all Indians are lazy alcoholic thieves, even though there is no reason to think so when it comes to Jay.
If being Native America didn't cause him enough trouble in town, the fact that his grandfather has hired a young Japanese-American from the nearby Topaz interment camp to help out on the farm almost puts Jay over the edge. 

But to his surprise, Jay discovers that not only is Ken a hard worker who wants to join the American army when he comes of age, but that he is also great at baseball, the sport that Jay most loves. 

Despite their differences, the two boys become friends--a situation that doesn't bode well for either one of them once the other boys in the community find out. 

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