Title: Jimmy's Stars
Author: Mary Ann Rodman
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Concepts: scarcity, allocation, distribution, production, jobs
Review: Ellie McKelvey, a sixth-grader from Pittsburgh, enjoyed baseball, going out to the movies with her brother Jimmy, and hanging out with her friends, but she despised Victoria Gandeck. After all, Victoria called Jimmy a slacker because he had not gone off to fight in the war like Victoria’s own four brothers. Ellie knew that Jimmy had a deferment from the service because their family depended on his earnings. However, now that their dad had returned to work, it was only a matter of time before the draft board would call her brother into the service.
Jimmy reported for duty on October 2, 1943. Ellie missed her brother terribly, and she tried to take comfort in his promise to come home for Christmas. All around her, the war effort impacted every part of Ellie’s life. Her Aunt Toots moved from West Virginia into their house, into Jimmy’s room, so she could get a factory job. Ellie’s mother also joined the likes of Rosie the Riveter and found work at a factory, her older sister got a job at the local diner when the owner’s daughter joined a volunteer women’s division of the navy, and Ellie found herself performing a growing number of household tasks. Daily routines changed as food items became rationed and as materials from children’s toys were recycled for wartime production. Even at school she could not escape the war, with her teacher’s bulletin board covered with pictures of former students and family members who had joined the military. Worst of all was the collective shock and grief when the telegram delivery boy brought news about the loss of a loved one.
By approaching the difficult theme of war through the eyes of an eleven-year old girl, Mary Ann Rodman makes the story both accessible and spellbinding for middle grade readers. Of particular interest is the book’s focus on major adjustments and sacrifices that adults and children made in their daily lives as part of the war effort, even though they were far removed from the actual fighting. Jimmy’s Stars also deserves high praise for its unpredictable plot, well-developed characters, and carefully-researched historical backdrop.
Review by: The Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children