________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 3 . . . . September 19, 2014


The Comic Book War.

Jacqueline Guest.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2014.
190 pp., trade pbk., pdf, epub & mobi, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-55050-582-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55050-583-2 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-55050-801-7 (epub), ISBN 978-1-55050-802-4 (mobi).

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Michelle Superle.

** /4



This was like the plot from a science-fiction novel. He tried to be logical, only logic was long gone.

[His brother] Patrick's letter rested on top of
The Maple Leaf Kid with its fireball cover glowing at him from the faded bedspread.

It wasn't a coincidence.

There was something going on here, something he was supposed to pay attention to, and it was huge.

Patrick had seen a meteorite the same night Robert had seen his. He took his chain off and held the fallen star. It felt warm as it nestled contentedly in his palm. It had been this meteorite. It had to be, and it was a cosmic connection between him and his brothers. The universe meant for him to find this speck of stardust, and the comic books were pointing at the connection, plain as the iron rock he now held.

His heroes were showing him what was happening to his brothers and how they would get out of whatever trouble hit them! He felt dizzy. Maybe he was crazy. Robert's gaze went from the comic book covers to his brothers' letters. Maybe he wasn't.

Who was he to say how the mysteries of the universe worked?

Jacqueline Guest's latest installation in her historical fiction series featuring the Tourond family takes a look at World War II on the home front through a very particular lens–comic books. The Comic Book War explores Robert Tourond's Grade 10 year in Alberta as it intersects with his brothers' work as soldiers in Europe. Best suited to readers aged 10 through 14, the story takes a unique approach to the now-familiar war genre.

      Robert is a classic "comic geek" who doesn't fit in at school and feels left behind when his older brothers enlist as soldiers. Only looking forward to reading the latest comic books and letters from his brothers helps him slog through his monotonous school days. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, when his obsession morphs into magical thinking that threatens to become a full break from reality, that Robert becomes so convinced the comics contain secret messages about his brothers' well-being that he begins to believe only he can ensure their safety–by reading the comics. Understandably, everybody else in his life believes he is deluded. And while Robert's desperate coping mechanism truly is difficult to watch, it is a believable testament to the grasping twists and turns the human psyche can take while struggling to maintain hope, perspective, and control during a traumatic time.

      The Comic Book War does provide a fascinating portal into one boy's experience of the war at home, but the novel is not without its drawbacks. Due to the particularities of Robert's delusion, the plot sometimes clunks along less than believably. Further, there is a clumsy, undue emphasis on plot descriptions of the comic books he is reading. At times these summaries are necessary to move the action along, but often they seem tacked on. The social history in the piece, though, manages to be redeeming: it is fascinating to learn about the work young boys did while delivering CP telegrams early in the war, as well as various fundraising initiatives to help the war effort–not to mention the many ways to enjoy Spam for dinner. Even better, the growth Robert experiences through his friendships with Charlie, a troubled girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and Mr. G., a stoic Polish refugee, is revelatory.

      However, all things considered, The Comic Book War is unlikely to appeal to a broad array of readers. Those most interested will surely be history buffs and comic fans. This variety of young reader should be directed to the book with the promise that they will enjoy a unique reading experience.

Recommended with reservations.

Michelle Superle is an Assistant Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley, where she teaches children's literature and creative writing courses. She has served twice as a judge for the TD Award for Canadian Children's Literature and is the author of Black Dog, Dream Dog and Contemporary, English-language Indian Children's Literature (Routledge, 2011).

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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