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***The Art of Keeping Cool

by Janet Taylor Lisle

Reviewed November 21, 2001.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000.  207 pages.

I had read another book by this author, and wasn’t particularly impressed, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this a magnificently crafted book.

The time is 1942.  13-year-old Robert Saunders and his mother have gone to live near his father’s parents in Rhode Island while his father, a pilot, is fighting the Nazis in Europe.  Robert has never met his grandparents before, and he wonders why they never mention his father and have no pictures of him on their walls.  Also living with the grandparents are his cousin Elliott and an aunt and uncle.

The book opens when Robert and Elliott watch some enormous guns arrive at the nearby fort.  They want to get a closer look, and the whole town is on the watch for Nazi submarines offshore.  Elliott, a budding artist, befriends a German artist, despite many people’s beliefs that he is actually a spy.

Elliott is non-confrontational with their controlling grandfather, which makes Robert’s blood boil.  He learns that same tendency to anger may be part of the reason why his father’s name is never mentioned.

The characterization and development of the action in this book are masterfully done.  For some reason, (perhaps because I’d just read his work) the style reminded me of Chaim Potok.  Both authors don’t feel the need to explain their character’s emotions.  Instead, they present situations that make the reader feel along with the character.


Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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