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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kregel Publishing/Bertie's War Review

I love books. I love reading. And I LOVE having a book "assigned" to me by the Crew because then I can justify losing myself in a story even while "Mount Washmore" towers over me! And over the Christmas holidays, I did just that.

Bertie's War by Barbara Tifft Blakey is the story of Bertie, a twelve year old girl living in 1962-a time of uncertainty in our country as Cuba sat with missiles poised at the ready and all of America scrambling to prepare for the seemingly inevitable attack. Bertie too is scrambling, but not just with missiles. Bertie is scrambling to define her place in her family and in the world, both of which are scary to her. In the end, Bertie's war is with herself and the fear that paralyzes her.

The background story of Bertie's War intrigued me since the house my family currently lives in has a 1200 square foot bomb shelter built in response to fear of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was the first one built in our county. The ceilings are one foot thick concrete with steel "I" beams running through them. The walls are supposed to be 3 feet thick, and the paths leading into it are a series of right angle turns designed to defuse the impact of a missile blast. So you can understand that the Cuban Missile Crisis was a very real danger to many people...especially those living in Florida. And immersing myself in Bertie's world was very insightful, but it wasn't always fun.

The pros: The story is well written, and Bertie's War offers a glimpse into an era of history that not many resources deal with. While Bertie's fear seems a bit over the top to us today, if you lived in my house, you would understand that real, grown people were sure that the sky was imminently going to be filled with enemy missiles that would forever change life as they knew it.

The cons: Honestly, I just didn't care for the book much. It was emotionally exhausting to read. Maybe because I grew up in the home of an alcoholic whose "rules" changed depending on how many beers had been consumed, I related with Bertie's unease with her father a little too well. It made me uncomfortable, and I found myself thinking that I didn't really want my kids to read this book. The real world will rush in to greet them soon enough without me exposing them to an emotional girl who chews her hair and cries incessantly to avoid dealing with her fears. Her mother is flighty and critical. Her father is distant and unkind. Her siblings tease her. Her fears consume her. And through all that, she fails to ever speak about her issues or handle them in a Biblical way. I did love the end when her father finally took her to the woodshed, but I felt it was a total disconnect with the way he was portrayed in the rest of the story, and so I didn't believe it.

The bottom line? I thought the story was well written, and obviously well researched. Barbara Blakey wrote Total Language Plus, and her professionalism is reflected in the quality of this book. I just didn't care for the story, and I don't think I would let my kids read it. Maybe others without my upbringing would feel differently, so I would encourage you to check out the reviews written by my fellow TOS Crew members HERE. I understand Kregel has many other wonderful publications, and I encourage you to check out their website HERE. You can also check out more about Bertie's War there and purchase it for $7.99.
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1 comment:

Barbara said...

Hi, this is Barbara Blakey, the author of Bertie's War. I want to thank you for your honest review. Comments such as yours help me grow as a writer.