The Book Reviews – Website

August 30, 2009

Flags of Our Fathers

Flags of Our Fathers

Author: James Bradley

Page Length: 211  

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: James Bradley is the son of John Bradley, one of the six soldiers photographed raising the American flag on Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima during World War ll.  As the story begins, James and his family are placing a memorial plaque atop the mountain in 1998, in memory of their father and husband.

The book proceeds with a description of each of the “boys” who joined the armed services in the early 1940’s to serve their country, not knowing that a photograph would be taken which would made them national heroes. Details of their family backgrounds, training, and personalities before they are a part of a major military convergence on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima are written. The violent battle which lasted for over a month and had over 27,000 combined casualties is then described in detail.

The history of the famous photograph, the building of its monument, and the celebrity lives that followed the surviving soldiers and families of those who died is chronicled.   

REVIEW: John Bradley did not share the experience of his military career with his family, although they knew he was one of the six soldiers pictured in the infamous picture of the soldiers raising the flag atop Mt. Suribachi. It was after his death, that his son, James, began research on each of the other soldiers and the part they each played in the month long battle between the United States and Japan at Iwo Jima. 

Most Americans are familiar with the picture and monument, but are probably not aware of the enormous amount of lives lost in just one month’s time.  Bradley writes the book in various time spans, including points of view from the soldiers, their families and their peers. 

I found the book to be quite interesting and informative.  It could be used in both Social Studies and English classes.  At the beginning of the book, there is a disclaimer that it is fiction.  However, I believe it is as close of an actual account of these six American heroes that we will have.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Historical Context, Character, Theme, Conflict, and Setting

RELATED BOOKS: Storm Landings: Epic Amphibious Battles in the Central Pacific, Iwo Jima: Amphibious Epic, a Marine Corps Monograph

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006, Japanese)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


Eyes of the Emperor

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Eyes of the Emperor

Auhtor: Graham Salisbury

Page Length: 6

Reading Level: 229     

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The story begins just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in 1941.  Eddy is a Japanese/American boy who lives in Honolulu.  Against his father’s wishes, Eddy lies about his age and joins the U. S. Army with some of his friends.  After the bombing on December 7, Eddy and his Japanese/American friends fall under the army’s discretion and are given menial jobs such as digging trenches, rather than undergoing regular army training.

Eddy and his friends are then moved to Cat Island, Mississippi, to participate in a secret mission approved by President Roosevelt.  The mission entails training for dogs to learn to identify the smell of Japanese people.  This task is completely demoralizing to Eddy and his comrades but they continue to follow orders because they took an oath to protect the citizens of the United States.  Eddy is nearly killed once, when his dog’s trainer fails to call his dog to stop an attack. 

Finally, the government comes in to observe how the program is progressing.  When the dogs fail to be able to distinguish between the Japanese and the Anglo Americans the mission is abandoned and Eddy and company are sent to Europe to fight with the U. S. troops.

REVIEW: Although fiction, this book was based on realistic events and gives examples of how the Japanese Americans were discriminated against during World War ll.  This book could be used to compare how people from Islamic nations were treated after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The characters in this book were well developed and the author used similes and metaphors throughout. Parts of the book were a little slow because the action was a bit repetitive, however, I think it would be a good book for junior high and high school boys to read.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Historical Context, Metaphors and Similes, Character, Setting, Point of View, Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: A Boy at War, Under the Blood-Red Sun, House of the Red Fish

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Pearl Harbor (2001)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

July 7, 2008

A Boy at War

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A Boy at War

Author: Harry Mazer

Page Length: 104

Reading Level: 8

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of Adam who is the “military son” of a proud American family. Adam’s father, Navy Lt. Pelko, has been assigned to the USS Arizona that has been stationed in Pearl Harbor on the shores of Hawaii. Adam is not a stranger to moving from city to city, however he finds it difficult to fit-in to this Asian and Hawaiian culture. Adam does manage to befriend Davi, a Japanese boy in his school. After Adam’s father discovers this friendship, he tells his son that associating with the Japanese at this time is not wise. Lt. Pelko goes on to tell Adam that whatever his son does reflects back on the family. Family image, respect, and honor are important within the Pelko household. However, Adam disobeys his father and continues to socialize with Davi. As Adam and Davi are enjoying a morning of fishing in Pearl Harbor, the area is attacked by Japanese fighter planes. Chapter 9 begins the high intensity action of the bombing.

Class issues and racial tension are evident in this book as were they during the time period of the 30’s and 40’s. War creates paranoid feelings that cause humans to over-generalize feelings toward broad groups. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, many Americans viewed Japanese-Americans as if they were “the enemy”. Once Adam experiences the attack on Pearl Harbor and his father’s ship, he starts to view his friend Davi as the enemy and pushes him into the water. A fight is not allowed to ensue as bullets begin to fly everywhere and an officer spots the boys and takes them away.

Adam is then thrown into the role of a soldier and assists the military in fighting the Japanese. However, Adam maintains that his mission is to return home to his family. When he does, Adam realizes that his father is away (most likely on the Arizona). After several days the family becomes worried that Lt. Pelko has been killed or missing in action. A letter does finally arrive stating that Adam’s father has been labeled missing in action. Adam’s family then is instructed to leave Hawaii to move onto a new phase of their lives. However, before Adam leaves he is able to reconcile his feelings toward Davi.

REVIEW: I felt that the resolution to this story was rather short. However, I enjoyed this action-packed book that would be a great supplement to a study of conflict, war, or cultural tension. The story is short enough to maintain the attention of struggling readers, however there are several words that may be above the reading level of some students. There is a map at the beginning of the book so the reader can visualize the locations of the events. There is also a short “author’s note” at the end of the book that adds some historical information that was highlighted in this fictional story.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: vocabulary (coxswain 55, emplacement 49, sampans 21, issei, Nisei, and various Hawaiian terms), historical context, foreshadowing (pages 15 & 19), metaphor (page 16 house/ship), simile (pages 36, 48, & 51), and reading a map

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: offensive racial/cultural references such as “Jap” (pages 19, 23, 63), “gook” (page 85), and “haole”, youth shooting a gun in the context of war

RELATED BOOKS: Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History, Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8, Day of Deceit

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Pearl Harbor” (2001), Remember Pearl Harbor (1942)

RELATED WEBSITES: (awesome link to several sites with a movie, quiz, interactive map, survivor stories, and lesson plans) (project ideas)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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