War and Millie McGonigle by Karen Cushman are set in San Diego during World War II. It’s 1941 and Millie’s world is changing, for the worse: her beloved grandmother dies, her best friend moves away, her obnoxious cousin Edna moves in with them and her little sister, Lily, is sick and getting all the attention. Worse still, war is declared and there are blackouts and the ugliness of anti-Japanese sentiment and the terrible news from overseas. In the midst of a difficult time, Millie becomes good at remembering and documenting things, writing a journal, sketching the dead sea life on the beach, using her imagination and books as an escape. There’s also Rocky, a handsome surfer boy, to distract her. Cushman’s writing picks out rich historical details that make the time period come alive, but Millie’s struggles to live through difficult and unprecedented times are universal and resonant.
War and Millie McGonigle