Annie, eleven, has been sent to spend the summer with her grandmother after she and her mother get the news that her father is missing in action at the end of World War II. Annie herself has just recovered from a month-long stay in the hospital, following surgery for a burst appendix. While there, she developed a habit of entering dream encounters with President Truman, who appears in dreams and fantasies to reassure her about her father, and about the other uncertainties she faces.

While at her grandmother's home in Walla Walla, Washington, a small farm town, a young African-American woman, a war widow, comes looking for work and is taken into the grandmother's house as an accountant. She and Annie become fast friends, much to the disapproval of her uncle, her father's younger brother, who has returned from the war wounded and bitter, having alone survived a battle in which all the other members of his platoon died. He and a few other troublemakers make escalating attempts to get the African-American woman to leave, including threats and a burning cross in the yard. But the grandmother, Annie, and Miss Gloria, who has seen worse racism in Georgia, hold out.

Eventually the brother comes to his senses and reports his fellow culprits to the police. Annie's father is found in a hospital in France, recovering from serious wounds as well as temporary amnesia. He and her mother arrive in Walla Walla after Annie has made a prize-winning speech in her new school about the losses and costs of war to individuals who return, going beyond the count of those dead. The father is nearly blind, but otherwise fairly well recovered, and he is accompanied by a young African-American aide who brings a ray of hope for companionship to Miss Gloria.


The novel is a lively source of information and reflection on some of the costs of war to the women and children who are left home. Based on some of the author's own childhood experiences, it has a ring of authenticity, though the circumstances of rural life in 1946 may seem quaint to young readers. Though the Truman fantasies seem a bit forced, they allow an interesting window into Annie's hopes and fears that she hesitates to share with others. The race hatred and Miss Gloria's courage are strongly and convincingly portrayed. The attitude of the townspeople who at first remain aloof from Miss Gloria, but then, with the leadership of the local pastor, gather round to comfort them after the cross-burning, also seems realistic. Annie is a lively, well-drawn character--a child who is both strong-willed and willing to learn, who loves and respects adults, but has a differentiated and active inner life and will.


Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Place Published

Grand Rapids, Mich.



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