November/December 2005 issue
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A Boy No More by Harry Mazer; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing: New York, 2004; $15.95
Harry Mazer’s book, A Boy No More, is set during World War II. On December 7, 1941, Adam Pelko, a fourteen-year-old boy, and his friends Davi and Martin were in a rowboat when the bombs fell on the USS Arizona on which Adam’s father served. This was the legendary Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Soon afterwards, Adam was evacuated from Hawaii with his family and moved to San Diego to start a new life.
The author adopted the perspective of Adam to tell this page-turning adventure. I find this point of view makes World War II seem a lot clearer, especially because it is so remote in time to me. In the vivid descriptions, I felt Adam’s struggle to survive life without his father, his need to be responsible and work to help his family, his bonding friendship with Davi, and his frustration at others who were either lazy or counterproductive.
In the second chapter Adam recalls, “I saw my father’s ship, that great battleship the USS Arizona, explode and sink.” This scene reminds me of when my family went to Hawaii for a vacation two years ago. We visited USS Arizona Memorial Center at Pearl Harbor. When I was standing on the memorial that straddled the sunken battleship’s hull, I could still see the roof of the cabins and the smokestack. There were trickles of oil seeping to the surface of the water around the ship, making the water murky, dark, and shiny. I was saddened by the death of the sailors in Pearl Harbor.
Even though I am so far in history from World War II, I have witnessed a similar horrifying catastrophe in my day: the collapsing of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. I remember clearly when I saw the planes hit the Twin Towers on the television. I recall the loud sirens, the burning flames and the people running on the streets, and finally, the whole building slowly collapsing into black smoke.
A Boy No More is a captivating story about history that we should remember. Harry Mazer wrote another book about Adam and Davi, which I will read, called A Boy at War. Some other stories around this time frame are Don’t You Know There’s a War On? by Avi, and Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolff. I strongly suggest that anyone who is interested in learning about the history of World War II read this book.