***The Art of Keeping Cool
by Janet Taylor Lisle
Reviewed November 21,
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000. 207 pages.
I had read another book by this author, and wasn’t particularly impressed,
so I was pleasantly surprised to find this a magnificently crafted book.
The time is 1942. 13-year-old Robert Saunders and his mother have
gone to live near his father’s parents in Rhode Island while his father,
a pilot, is fighting the Nazis in Europe. Robert has never met his
grandparents before, and he wonders why they never mention his father and
have no pictures of him on their walls. Also living with the grandparents
are his cousin Elliott and an aunt and uncle.
The book opens when Robert and Elliott watch some enormous guns arrive
at the nearby fort. They want to get a closer look, and the whole
town is on the watch for Nazi submarines offshore. Elliott, a budding
artist, befriends a German artist, despite many people’s beliefs that he
is actually a spy.
Elliott is non-confrontational with their controlling grandfather, which
makes Robert’s blood boil. He learns that same tendency to anger may
be part of the reason why his father’s name is never mentioned.
The characterization and development of the action in this book are
masterfully done. For some reason, (perhaps because I’d just read
his work) the style reminded me of Chaim Potok. Both authors don’t
feel the need to explain their character’s emotions. Instead, they
present situations that make the reader feel along with the character.
Copyright © 2003
Sondra Eklund. All rights
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