War Games

Written by Akila Couloumbis Audrey Couloumbis
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

This middle-grade novel explores coming of age in Greece during World War II, as seen from the viewpoint of 12-year-old Petros and his older brother, Zola. War Games is a husband-and-wife collaboration based on Akila Couloumbis’ memories of his own childhood and immigrant family. Its members returned to Greece during the American Depression and were trapped there when the German army invaded.

Instructed to hide their American link and association with their resistance fighter cousin, the boys still want to make a difference. They bury all gifts from the United States and hide their knowledge of the English language, but also pass on messages of hope to their neighbors as they play ball, and hide their wounded cousin in the family’s well. When a German officer decides to board at their house, the stakes are raised but also complicated by their unwanted guest’s humanity.

Full of striking images: of food, a pet goat, a flag that becomes a freedom-loving kite, and the beautiful countryside so cruelly invaded, unfortunately the story also suffers from characterizations that fail to come to life despite too many scenes of teasing and scolding, as well as a choppiness of pace.