Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Secret Soldiers by Keely Hutton - ADVISABLE

Secret Soldiers by Keely Hutton
, 309 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Macmillan), 2019. $17 

Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (war death/violence) 



Tommy’s (13 yo) older brother, James, is fighting on the front line in the Great War. Tommy’s family had only received one letter from James when they were notified that he was missing. Tommy’s dad won’t talk about it and his mother fears the worst, but Tommy believes there is another explanation as to why they haven’t heard from him and decides it is up to him to find James. He is too young to join the army but lots of young men are finding a way to join and he eventually finds a way, as well, and arrives on the front line. Along the way he meets George, a street urchin just looking for his next meal or maybe his next con; Mouse, who is too shy to disagree, or even talk, with anyone; and Frederick Chamberlain, who has military and boarding school training, but his rigid personality is getting in the way of making friends. All four of them end up assigned to the same unit digging tunnels under the front line. It is cold, hard work and there is no talking allowed during their 8 hour shift in fear of being discovered by the enemy. When he isn’t digging, Tommy is showing James’s picture to other soldiers hoping someone has seen him, but it isn’t going well and Tommy begins to wonder if he will ever be able to find James and go home. 

The harsh realities of war can be hard to read, but this was mostly a story about friendship and a boy trying to find his brother. The characters were great and I found myself rooting for them, hoping they would all make it. I didn’t know much about soldiers digging under the trenches during the war and found that interesting, but there were also a few times it moved pretty slow. The ending, however, was so heartfelt that I quickly forgot those moments that dragged and was so glad I read it. 

Reviewer: R. Benson

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