Kim's Reviews > Caleb's Wars

Caleb's Wars by David L. Dudley
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's review
Jun 28, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, historical-fiction, reviewed-for-slj, young-adult-fiction

From November 2011 SLJ:
Gr 7-10: In 1944 rural Georgia, 15-year-old Caleb has been taught to step off the sidewalk whenever white folks approach and not to talk back to a white person of any age. His older brother enlists to fight the Nazis and is relegated to an all-black unit supervised by white officers. When Caleb's father beats him one time too many, Caleb approaches Mr. Davis about work. The plantation owner has pulled some strings to get German POWs incarcerated close by, so he has all the field help he needs, but he offers Caleb a dishwashing job in his Dixie Belle Café. Then he decides to bring one of the POWs in to the Dixie Belle to help out in the kitchen. Over time, the soldier proves to be a quiet, steady worker, and slowly he and Caleb develop a friendship. When Caleb's parents get news that their older son has been injured and taken prisoner, he feels guilty about the relationship: How can he be civil to a person who represents the enemy? His confusion grows when he sees several POWs eating at the Dixie Belle: even though the townspeople detest them, the color of their skin allows them to be served. Furious, Caleb sits down, leading to a confrontation with Mr. Davis that provides no easy answers, but hints that his battles are just beginning. Caleb is compelling and believable, and Dudley's rich writing is impressive, clearly showing the various wars black Americans were fighting in the 1940s, both abroad and closer to home.
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