HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: After the Dancing Days
Author: Margaret I. Rostkowski
Cover Illustrator: Linda Benson
Publisher: HarperCollins, reprinted 2000
ISBN-13: 978-0060250782 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 006025078X Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9780064402484 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0064402487 Paperback
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12-15
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Category: Historical fiction
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Rostkowski, Margaret I. After the Dancing Days (Published in 1986 by Harper Trophy, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022). It is 1918, the “Great War” (World War I), has just ended, and thirteen year old Annie Metcalf lives with her father Lawrence, her mother Katherine, and their dog Fidelio in Kansas City, KS. Mr. Metcalf is a doctor and spent the war at a military hospital in New York City, but Mrs. Metcalf’s brother, Annie’s beloved Uncle Paul who enlisted as a soldier, died in France. As Annie waits at the train station for her father to come home, she sees the wounded who are returning to Kansas City from the battlefields of France and at first is greatly repulsed. But when her father decides to continue his work at a veterans’ hospital, she finds herself drawn to the place for reasons she doesn’t understand.
There Annie meets Andrew, a horribly burned young veteran who is disfigured and bitterly withdrawn from everyone around him. Acting against the express wishes of her strong-willed mother who wants to forget the pain and heartache–and to keep it away from her daughter, too, Annie continues to visit the hospital, desiring to help Andrew come out of his shell. Can Annie find the means to assist Andrew? Will she be able to confront her mother’s anger? And why are the circumstances surrounding Uncle Paul’s death so mysterious? In addition to some common euphemisms (e.g., “darn”), the “d” and “h” words, as well as phrases like “Oh God,” are occasionally used as interjections. Also there are numerous references to smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes.
Books for young people about the time of World War I are not as numerous as those about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and especially World War II. After the Dancing Days won the1987 IRA Children’s Book Award, along with many other honors. The basic theme is how Annie learns to make sense of a war that took so much from so many by exploring themes of adolescence such as independence versus dependence, heroism, the meaning of sacrifice, the high cost of war on all involved, and moral decision making. Annie’s character develops from a child who wants to hold on to her sheltered world, to young adult who forces herself to deal with the reality of the aftermath of the war. The stories about victims of mustard gas, shrapnel wounds, and other war injuries bring the war home for readers. The book does an excellent job of giving the feeling of the time period just after World War 1.