HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Captain’s CommandAuthor: Anna Myers
Cover Illustrator: Greg Shed
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, republished in 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0802787064 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0802787061 (Hardcover)
Related website: http://www.randomhouse.com/kids (publisher)
Language level: 1 (the word “gosh” appears once)
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Myers, Anna. Captain’s Command (published in 1999 by Walker Books for Young Readers; republished in 2001 by Dell Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY 10036). The book opens during World War II with five men in a B-17 bomber who are shot down over occupied France. Two survive, the navigator who is seriously injured and the gunner who tries to get them both to safety. They find refuge in the home of a French family whose father was killed by the Nazis. Gail Harmon, a sixth-grader, lives in a yellow house in Stonewall, OK, with her mother Eva, younger twin siblings Timmy and Mary Nell who are five, and Captain, the Labrador retriever named Captain that her father gave her before he went away to fight in the war.
Then the Harmons receive a telegram that Gail’s father, Virgil Harmon, has been shot down and is missing in action. Nearby live Gail’s great-grandmother, Big Mama, and Uncle Ned. When Virgil and Ned were boys, their parents were killed in an accident and their grandmother came from Mississippi to take care of them. Now, Ned, who became a geologist, has returned from the war broken and blinded to find that his wife has left him. He is very bitter, drinks the home-brewed whiskey that the neighbor gives him, and acts as if he doesn’t want to live. Yet Gail has received a letter from her father asking her to take care of his younger brother. Is there anything that Gail and Captain can do to help Ned, especially when he wanders off by himself in the snow? And will Gail ever see her father again?
My reaction after reading this book is basically positive. Yes, there is a great deal of sadness, but of course many families experienced great sadness during World War II. However, there is also a feeling of hope, especially at the end. So it is not morbid or depressing. There are references to smoking a pipe, dancing, and an age of millions of years for some of Ned’s fossils, and the euphemistic term “gosh” is used once. And, of course, there is Ned’s drinking, but both Mrs. Harmon and Big Mama refer to it as poison, and the implication finally is that Ned will give it up. All in all, Captain’s Command gives a good picture of what it was like for typical American families with men in the service during World War II and the kinds of problems that they faced.