Across a War-tossed Sea

Written by L.M. Elliott
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

In a follow-up to the author’s acclaimed Under a War-Torn Sky, two London brothers are transported to Tidewater Virginia during World War II. In alternating point of view shifts, we see their new environment, the American Ratcliff family, and neighboring German prisoners of war. Ten-year-old Wesley still clings to a favorite toy and has nightmares about the hellish sinking that the brothers survive on their way to the U.S. Fourteen-year-old Charles wants to get home to help the war effort, and tries to protect his younger brother and their Britishness, but fast becomes “Chuck,” the school’s football hero, even as he develops a crush on a Ratcliff daughter.

Details bring to life the world scorched by the effects of the Great Depression and global war from youths’ eyes. The boys experience bullying, loneliness expressed poignantly by their frequent letters home, prejudice in their friendship with bright-minded and resourceful African and Native American neighbors, and the hard work required of a farm family.

Episodic and fast moving, Across a War Tossed Sea’s engrossing, complex characters and adventures should keep young readers involved and delighted. The correspondence between the boys and their parents made me wish that some of the parents’ replies had survived the novel’s final draft to enrich the story. The German POWs come in rather late but help propel the plot to its satisfying conclusion. Ages 10-14.