Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Home Front Girl by Joan Wehlen Morrison

Pages: 272
Pub. Date: November 1, 2012
Genre: YA Non-fiction
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "This diary of a smart, astute, and funny teenager provides a fascinating record of what an everyday American girl felt and thought during the Depression and the lead-up to World War II. Young Chicagoan Joan Wehlen describes her daily life growing up in the city and ruminates about the impending war, daily headlines, and major touchstones of the era—FDR’s radio addresses, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Goodbye Mr. Chipsand Citizen Kane, Churchill and Hitler, war work and Red Cross meetings. Included are Joan’s charming doodles of her latest dress or haircut reflective of the era. Home Front Girl is not only an entertaining and delightful read but an important primary source—a vivid account of a real American girl’s lived experiences."

Joan Wehlen is your average girl living through the Depression and the beginnings of World War II.  She lives with her family in Chicago, goes to school, gets good grades, enjoys writing, and has many friends.  However, Joan's diary is anything but average.  Yes, it includes everyday observations and beautiful prose, but also reflections of life leading up to World War II.  She discusses events such as FDR's radio address, Hitler, Pearl Harbor, and other important moments of the time.  Readers interested in history, especially World War II, will love Home Front Girl as it is a glimpse into Joan's seemingly average life during an extraordinary time. 

I love the background of Home Front Girl.  Her daughter found her mother's diary amongst her personal belongings after she died and decided to publish it.  The idea that we can live on through our writing is inspirational; in fact, it makes me want to keep a journal, something I have failed miserably at in the past.  It's interesting to think about what insight you gain into a time period when you read their diary; one thing is for's much more captivating than reading a history textbook.

Although Joan does talk a lot about what you would expect a teenager to talk about in Home Front Girl, such as boys, school, teachers, movies, etc, she makes even the mundane and everyday occurrences seem interesting.  Simply put, Joan is an incredible writer and extremely smart.  As I was reading it, I couldn't help but be reminded of Anne Frank's diary, The Diary of a Young Girl.  There's no doubt that this book would make an excellent companion to an Anne Frank/WWII unit, as it truly gives readers an idea of what life was like for a girl living on the home front during a tumultuous time not only in the United States, but the world.  Students can make many connections between the girls as well as their similarities regarding their reflections and thoughts on life.  Sadly, Anne never did become that writer she dreamed of; however, Joan ended up becoming a writer amongst other things.  I was glad to hear this as it was definitely an innate talent of hers.

Joan started her diary, Home Front Girl, at age fourteen and it continued till she was twenty years old. Whether she was discussing FDR or the beautiful blue-eyed boy in her class, I was captivated.  There's something special about this time period that America has lost and we will probably never get back.  A time before computers, texting, the Internet and reality television--it was quite refreshing to be transported into Joan's world.  It was nice to hear about her choir practice, the everyday events at school, her adventures at camp, going to movies with her parents, etc.  As I was reading it, I couldn't help but feel a little sad because that innocence is so hard to achieve this day in age; nonetheless, I loved learning more about what life was like for a young girl living then.

I recommend Home Front Girl by Joan Whelen Morrison to fans of young adult non-fiction, WWII, and those that are curious as to what life was like during a time that is gone forever.


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