cover image Don't You Know There's a War On?

Don't You Know There's a War On?

James Stevenson. Greenwillow Books, $14 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11383-4

This nostalgic tale by the talented New Yorker artist is more bittersweet than his previous reminiscences ( When I Was Nine ; Higher on the Door ; July ), and, as a result, is more touching. Told in Stevenson's trademark ingenuous first-person style, the story opens in 1942, when the young narrator's requests for a ride to the movies or a candy bar are answered with the oft-heard question posed in the book's title. Insisting that ``I tried to help win the war,'' the boy chronicles his well-intentioned efforts, which include planting a victory garden, saving foil, writing a newspaper and searching for spies among the neighbors. Although matters become a bit scary when his father goes off to join the Army, the boy and his mother have a chance to visit him at Christmas, and finally greet him at the train station once the war is over. Sly humor adds immeasurably to this winning study, while distinctive pastel shades fill Stevenson's inviting, typically sketchy watercolors. The art and the endearingly personal text evoke the past in the affecting manner that Stevenson has perfected. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)