cover image My Wartime Summers

My Wartime Summers

Jane Cutler. Farrar Straus Giroux, $15 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-374-35111-3

A sensibility more adult than childlike colors Cutler's episodic novel about an American girl growing up during WWII. Ellen, first met in the summer of 1942, when she is 11, has no way of grasping the meaning of war. When a German Jewish refugee family moves into her neighborhood, she is certain that they are spies, and she leaps out from behind a bush to tackle the young daughter, yelling, ``Geronimo!'' By the time the war ends, however, Ellen has greater understanding, having seen her soldier uncle shattered by his experiences fighting the Germans. Throughout, laconic wit replaces the ready humor of Cutler's (No Dogs Allowed) previous writing. The author's use of period details is so convincing that the book reads like autobiography, but the elliptical structure of her novel, which jumps from one summer to the next, undermines the mood-unlike Ellen, the reader is not sufficiently exposed to the historical climate to appreciate the incidents Cutler relates; rather than entering Ellen's world, the reader is left to hopscotch through it. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)