Reviews for War & Watermelon

Booklist Reviews 2011 July #1
It's 1969, and 12-year-old Brody is trying to enjoy the final days of summer. But at 87 pounds, he is not sure he'll make the football team; his best friend keeps pushing him into a relationship with a girl from their swim club; and his father and older brother, Ryan, are locked in an endless argument about college versus the draft. On the plus side, Brody accompanies Ryan on a hilariously disastrous trip to Woodstock, meets an interesting new girl at school, and learns to make the most of his assets (speed) in football. The book's diary format helps convey Brody's insecurities and his gradually emerging confidence. Sixties culture and events (including popular songs, the first moon walk, and the generational divide over the Vietnam War) are well integrated into the story, and humorous vignettes (a forgotten watermelon left in the car after Woodstock explodes during a heat wave) help to lighten the mood. For another look at the era, try Gary D. Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars (2007) and Okay for Now (2011). Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
Brody, about to enter junior high, spends the summer of 1969 playing football, watching the Mets, and chasing girls (mostly unsuccessfully) with his friend. Meanwhile, he must navigate the tension in his family surrounding his brother's impending eighteenth birthday--and inevitable draft card. The story is a little slow-paced, but the relationships, especially between the brothers, are engaging. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 May #1

Twelve-year-old Brody Winslow says, "It feels like my whole life's about to change. Moving into junior high is like stepping out of childhood, whether you want to or not."

And the summer of 1969 is an exciting and confusing time to grow up. When Brody's first-person account begins, it's August 11th. Men walked on the Moon last month, Woodstock starts on Friday, the Vietnam War is raging in the background, the Mets are losing as usual and Brody is beginning to be interested in girls, even if he does see himself as uncool, scrawny and awkward. Older brother Ryan turns 18 soon, draft age, a cause for conflict with his father, who wants Ryan in college, safely deferred. Mr. Winslow may be gruff, but readers may see his point of view as much as Ryan's, who never comes off as an angry young peacenik, more a kid playing at possibilities. Mrs. Winslow, from the background, offers food as a palliative for all family crises. Wallace (Wrestling Sturbridge, 1996, etc.) may throw a barrage of historical references in the opening chapters, details jammed in like rock fans at Woodstock, but he still manages an accessible story rooted in a colorful time.

Readers will enjoy Brody's story as he, in these few weeks, makes one small step toward manhood. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 May #2

Brody Winslow narrates a month in his life in 1969, just as he's about to start seventh grade in suburban New Jersey. Neil Armstrong landed on the moon a month earlier, the Vietnam War is raging, and Brody's beloved older brother, Ryan, will turn 18--and become eligible for the draft--in less than 30 days. The central conflict is between Brody's father and Ryan, who resists applying to college because he's not ready, but has no alternative to being drafted. Even Brody understands how high the stakes are: "It's not like he can stop the calendar from turning just by ignoring it." As Brody reports his anxiety over the familial tension, he relates his budding interest in girls and his shaky spot on the rec league football team. Wallace's (the Kickers series) slice-of-life tale doesn't entirely capitalize on its material--the life and death choices teens in Ryan's era had to make--but a trip to Woodstock and a less successful venture to Shea Stadium to see the improbably streaking Mets firmly ground Brody's narrative in the period. Ages 10-up. (June)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 July

Gr 6-9--August 1969 is a confusing time in the life of Brody Winslow. In episodic chapters, he offers an endearing, straightforward account (with occasional poetry) of his worries about starting junior high, about girls and his own social status, and about the chance that his brother, Gary, could go to Vietnam. Frequent references to the music, pop culture, and politics situate readers in the time and place, as the New Jersey teen hangs out at the public pool with his friend Alex, listens to the latest hits on the radio, and tries not to screw up at football practice. Wallace clearly aims to give young people a means to experience this historic summer through the eyes of a kid also just dealing with adolescence. Early in the book, Gary takes Brody to Woodstock, where they encounter the traffic, mud, hippies, and drugs; later on Gary is arrested at an antiwar vigil in Rochester. The narrative can at times seem convenient or didactic, but Brody's experiences at awkward dances, at football practice, and as buffer between his constantly arguing dad and brother will ring true. Sports fans will appreciate the play-by-play football action and Mets references, and music fans might be inspired to look up Joan Baez or Sly and the Family Stone. This novel is less nuanced and complex than Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars (Clarion, 2007), though the references to drugs, nudity, drinking, and occasional raw language suggest older, reluctant readers.--Riva Pollard, Prospect Sierra Middle School, El Cerrito, CA

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