Author: L. M. Elliott
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reading Level: Ages 10 to 14
Multicultural: Characters include British boys, white Americans, African Americans, a Native American, and German POWs
Curriculum Subject: History
Across a War-Tossed Sea is a historical fiction novel mostly set in rural Virginia during World War II (September 1943 to May 1944). With main characters including an African American boy, five American siblings, and two British siblings, the book provides an interesting perspective on the time period and what it was like for both American and British children during the war even if the characters are perhaps very stereotypically portrayed.
The main characters are brothers Charles (14) and Wesley (10), who are sent from London to live in rural Virginia with the family of a man their father saved in World War I. Most of the book is about day to day life including working on the farm and going to school, but the plot is also filled with references to the war and the war effort. This includes the children helping salvage items to be used for things the troops needed, listening to radio reports from Edward Murrow and on D-Day, and hiring German POWs helping to help with farm work.
Beyond just providing a look at life in America during the war, the book also provides some perspective on the differences between British and American culture. This includes Charles finding it odd how football is not the same sport and considering it a less intense version of rugby. He also questions whether the British were really as bad as the Americans say when he learns about the American Revolution in school and is surprised that the British and Americans are now friends after learning what his country did to D.C. during the War of 1812.
Across a War-Tossed Sea also touches on what life was like for African-American and to a very small extent the Native Americans in this time period. Wesley ends up becoming friends with a neighbor who is African American. While his host family mostly freely associates with them, he discovers the realities of segregation when he goes with his friend to see the launching of the USS Ticonderoga. The book also discusses how the African Americans were given new opportunities during the war, such as helping build the ships.
Probably the most interesting and unique perspective brought into the story, though, is that of the German POWs. They are brought into the story when the family has to hire them in order to get all the farm work done. This aspect of the story includes a German POW saving one of the kids as well as the kids later saving him, which helps them realize that they have similar war experiences and that they need to not fight for revenge, but for peace.
Across a War-Tossed Sea is an great read that can help provide a deeper understanding of life during World War II. It may not have much of the tension and action that a war period novel set in Europe or the Pacific, but it does show how the war did touch American soil and the war efforts at home to equip the troops.
Types of Readers Book Might Appeal To & Multiple Intelligence Categories
- Those interested in history and historical fiction, especially if they are interested in World War II history.
- Those that have immigrated from another country or even from another region may relate to how Charles and Wesley feelings of homesickness and how they find living on a Virginia farm different from their British upbringing in London.
- Several scenes provide examples of learning to get along and working together, especially in how Ron and Wesley eventually become friends and the different ways people helped the war effort. (Interpersonal)
- The book also provides insight into understanding inner feelings and intentions, especially in the portrayal of Charles and the German POW. (Intrapersonal)
- World War II Lesson Plans - This part of the National World War II Museum website has a variety of lesson plans related to World War II. Some of the ones most relevant to topics covered in Across the War-Tossed Sea are In His Own: Words Analyzing a D-Day Diary, Winning Over Hearts and Minds: Analyzing WWII Propaganda Posters, Take a Memo: Understanding African American Soldiers on the Home Front, and Thanks to Penicillin… He Will Come Home! The Challenge of Mass Production.
- On the Home Front Lesson Plan for The War: A Ken Burns Film
- Changing Tides: A Gates Family Mystery by Catherine Hapka
- Midnight Ride: A Gates Family Mystery by Catherine Hapka
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