cover image Keep Smiling Through

Keep Smiling Through

Ann Rinaldi. Harcourt Children's Books, $13 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200768-3

Rinaldi (The Fifth of March; A Break with Charity) takes a break from early American historical fiction to explore the period of her own childhood, WWII. Expertly evoking the patriotic fervor on the home front as it permeates everything from scrap drives to popular songs, the author introduces 10-year-old Kay Hennings, the narrator, as preoccupied with justice and fighting the good fight as any of her radio heroines. Kay's family is steeped in misery of fairy-tale proportions: her stepmother takes almost sadistic pleasure in depriving Kay and her four older siblings of every semblance of comfort, and her miserly father shows more concern for his coffers than for his children. What would be melodrama in lesser hands generates tension here--how will Kay bear it, much less ""keep smiling through""? Rinaldi rewards Kay with an adventure worthy of her favorite radio show, then submits her to a test of honor and loyalty. Kay passes--and learns the awful, adult lesson that ""you can do the right thing and sometimes it all goes bad for you anyway."" Kay's vulnerability spills across the entire novel, bathing it in poignancy and enveloping the reader in its old-fashioned, bittersweet truths. Ages 8-12. (May)