by Carolyn Reeder


On a map or globe, find: Your town or city; San Diego, CA; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Japan


Chapter 1

p. 1   firebombs— Instead of causing destruction by exploding, incendiary bombs started fires that would spread through large areas.

p. 3   Civil Defense Spotters — Civilian volunteers were trained to quickly recognize the silhouette of enemy aircraft and worked shifts, searching the sky for their approach.

p. 3   diagram a sentence — For generations, students were taught grammar through diagrams that showed the relationship of words in the sentence.

p. 6   "slide across the seat"— This was easy because there were no bucket seats then, and the gear shift was on the steering wheel column rather than on the floor.

p. 7   aircraft factories, etc. — San Diego was a major center for defense industries with shipyards as well as aircraft factories that operated on shifts around the clock. It was also the location of important naval installations. The area's population greatly increased as workers from other parts of the country came to the city to work — and as the wives of navy personnel moved to San Diego. This led to shortages of housing and to crowded classrooms.

Chapter 2

p. 14   opening exercises — At this time, public schools began the day with the teacher reading a chapter from the Bible and the class reciting The Lord's Prayer and saluting the flag, followed by the singing of a patriotic song.

p. 14-15   ...join the war that has been raging in Europe and Asia — The war in Europe started in September of 1939 when Germany invaded Poland and as a result Britain and France declared war on Germany; Japan had been at war with China since 1937.

p. 15   thirty-nine pairs of eyes— classes were larger in general at that time, plus wartime population growth put a strain on the schools.

Chapter 8

p. 75   fear Japs would contaminate food crops — an example of the wartime paranoia and of the prejudice against Japanese and Japanese-Americans that had been evident long before the war began.

Chapter 9

p. 87   the duration — the whole time the war lasts

Chapter 10

p. 97   Frigidaire — refrigerator

p. 98   oil cloth tablecover — similar to today's plastic or vinyl-coated tablecloths

p. 98   the East Indies— WWII-era name for Southeastern Asia (This might be a good time to use a globe to locate the Philippines; Kuala Lumpur—in Malasia, then known as the Malay Peninsula; Rangoon, Burma; Borneo; the Solomon Islands)

p. 98   U-Boats — German submarines. Americans on the Atlantic coast feared attack from these subs just as those on the Pacific coast feared Japanese bombs. Vacationers at Virginia Beach, VA, actually witnessed the sinking of two oil tankers by U-boats, and saboteurs did make their way to shore from U-boats. (They were quickly captured.)

Chapter 11

p. 104   Victrola— record player

p. 104   albums— then, record albums were about the size of a scrapbook and contained a number of records (10" or 12" in diameter) that together contained a single symphony or concerto. This was before "long-playing" records came into use.

Chapter 12

p. 112   "Women! . . . They've hired them!"— Before World War II, most married women didn't work, and only a few types of work were open to women. Teaching, nursing, being a secretary or librarian, being a waitress or a clerk in a store—these jobs were considered acceptable for women. But as men joined the armed forces, women filled the jobs they left. And women were needed to fill factory jobs in defense industries, too. (During earlier wars, also, women filled in for their soldier husbands, but this time was different—when the men returned home, many women were not willing to go back to being "just a housewife.")

Chapter 14

p. 129   "I thought sugar was rationed" — Because many goods were scarce, the government started a system of rationing, or limiting, how much could be bought by one person or family. Sugar was the first product to be rationed, and then coffee, but other foods such as meat and canned goods were later rationed, as were gasoline and shoes. "Ration Books" containing coupons or stamps, each worth a certain number of "points," were issued to people who signed up with their local Ration Board, and when you bought a rationed product, you paid with the required number of coupons as well as with cash. (At one time during the war, a pound of hamburger meat or pork chops required 7 points, a 46-oz. can of pineapple juice required 22 points.)

p. 29   the black market — buying on the black market meant buying scarce or rationed goods illegally (buying more than was allowed, without using ration points)

Chapter 16

p. 140   Woman's Auxiliary Army Corps — During WWII, women in uniform took over many non-combat jobs in order to free men for combat duty. Women served as mechanics and in other traditionally "male" jobs as well as doing office work. Later, the name of this branch of the service was shortened to Women's Army Corp, and its members were known as WACS. (WAVES—Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service—served in the navy.)

p. 141   canteen — a social club for servicemen, usually providing refreshments and entertainment. Local citizens would often set up a canteen for homesick servicemen stationed in their area.

p. 143   "Just don't throw me in the briar patch" — refers to the reverse psychology used by the clever rabbit when the fox who had caught him was trying to think up the worst possible punishment he could inflict. The fox threw the rabbit into a briar patch, which was, of course, exactly what the rabbit wanted him to do.

Chapter 17

p. 153   Achtung! — German for "Attention!"


How was Foster's school different from ours? Why do you think most of Foster's teachers hadn't liked him? Why do you think Mrs. Jackson DOES like him? In what ways is Foster's daily life like yours? In what ways is it quite different? What makes Mom a good mother? Why do you think Foster was nicer to Wilbur than the other kids were? Why did he choose Wilbur to help at the stamp sale?


1) Invite in some grandparents or older people in the community to share their WWII memories with the class, and see if they can bring in "artifacts" of the time OR have individual students interview older people and report to the class on what they learned.

2) Have the students find photos from the early 1940s showing such things as hair and clothing styles, home furnishings (including radios), school classrooms, cars, military aircraft, etc. (Dover Publications has a book of paper dolls titled "American Family of the 1940s"--ISBN 0-486-27336-9. An excellent book to have available in the classroom is Home Front America: Popular Culture of the World War II Era, by Robert Heide and John Gilman, ISBN 0-8118-0927-7. Not written for children, but the photos are excellent.)

3) Recommend other WWII historical novels set both on the home front and in other countries. Be sure to include Baseball Saved Us, a picture book set in a Japanese internment camp.

4) Suggest that interested students check the school library for nonfiction books about WWII.

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