Saturday, January 9, 2010

TOS Crew Review -- Kregel Publications

Historical fiction books fill a wonderful role. Teaching a bit about history while also weaving a story. They generally help bring an era to life that most readers did not have the experience of living through.

Bertie's War tells the tale of a young girl struggling with the typical fears and insecurities of growing up placed in the time period of the 1960s. She lives in fear of just about everything, often caused by her misunderstanding of her circumstances.

The threat of nuclear war seemed very real and she even chose her clothing to give herself the best possible chances of survival. She also feared her father, intimidating bullies, embarrassment at school, and the room where a loved one died.

Product: Kregel Publications' book, Bertie's War
Details: A historical fiction account of a young girl growing up in the 1960s.
Price: $7.99

What I enjoyed . . .
  • Fairly easy to read. Not necessarily a page turner, but I enjoyed the story overall and wanted to continue reading to watch the main character grow and see how resolution arrived.
  • A clean story. No violence or innuendos to worry about in this story. One boy shows some interest in Bertie, but it doesn't go any further than the mention of it. It is definitely not a focal point in the story.
  • Good family values. The parents love each other, the family works together, they look out for extended family, and they occasionally express the importance of their faith in God.
  • The ending. Bertie learned an important spiritual lesson that helps her to conquer her fear, and most importantly she understands the love of her earthly father and her heavenly Father in the process.

Some considerations . . .
  • Some characters are not very likable. I don't know if it was because she was so pathetically human, or if I could identify too much with her experiences from my own junior high days (although they weren't in the sixties), but I just didn't like Bertie very much. She lived too timidly and didn't seem to have anyone to show her true colors to.
  • Bertie day dreams, a lot. The book often takes you into these imaginary moments that Bertie has while playing or working. She suddenly sees the surroundings through the eyes of some character, either historical or fictional, and reinterprets everything she sees in that light. I found the frequency and length of these somewhat distracting.
  • I personally didn't appreciate the portrayal of God. Bertie first seems to begin to understand Him through one of her daydreams, which made Him seem like just another fantasy to me. I had a hard time reconciling the image of God in a mackinaw (as she saw Him) with her wake up call to reality. It left me wondering if she really understood He was real or not.
  • Not enough history for my liking. Maybe the world just hasn't changed enough since then for me to appreciate recent historical fiction (we still drive cars, go camping, deal with power outages during storms, have back to school shopping, etc.) Maybe I wanted to know more about the briefly mentioned newscasts. I didn't live during this time period, and honestly don't know much about it. I would have appreciated a little more detail about the international situation that frightened Bertie so much.

Bertie's War did not leave me wanting more. I thought the conclusion was fairly satisfactory, but more a relief that Bertie finally might attain some likable qualities.

If you want a dip back into history, not too far, but back to days when family was more valued and life was a bit simpler, you might enjoy Bertie's War. And, if you have an older child struggling with fears that sometimes find themselves blown out of proportion, the message of the story could be quite helpful in starting a dialogue about that on a very personal and practical level.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me free of charge from Kregel Publications as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.


REG said...

Growing up in the sixties we got to watch race riots, the assassinations of three major historical figures, and the carnage,blood,and death of the Viet Nam War on TV every night. It left us feeling very fearful as children.

5intow said...


Thank you for sharing that. It is not terribly long before I was born, and yet, seemed like distant history by the time I was really aware of current events myself.

I think I might have appreciated the book more if I had put it in the context that you mentioned. There was a lot more going on than the threat of nuclear arms that the book mentions.

Thank you for your insight,

Barbara said...

Hi, this is Barbara Blakey, the author of Bertie's War. Thank you for taking the time to read and review this book. It is my first attempt at juvenile fiction and comments such as yours help me grow as a writer. I care what readers think and appreciate your blog.

5intow said...


Thank you so much for stopping in! I admire you for making a leap into juvenile fiction. I enjoy writing, but I don't think that is a realm I could ever swim in. Looking forward to your next venture in this area!