Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Product Review: Bertie's War from Kregel Publications


Bertie's War, written by Barbara Tifft Blakey, is set in the fall of 1962 when Soviet missiles were pointed toward the United States. The Cuban Missile Crisis had many Americans scared witless, and the story illustrates how "the world went crazy- and took a young girl with it". *


The main character, Bertie, is a seventh grader facing many difficulties. Her father is a stern disciplinarian. In Bertie's opinion, his rules are ambiguous, so she lives in fear of being unintentionally disobedient and having to visit the woodshed. Her mother is distracted and flip flops between being permissive and harsh. Her siblings tease and provoke her or lead her into trouble. She is terrified of the missiles and overreacts to every perceived threat. Her best friends are the ones she imagines, and she spends most of her time escaping reality through imaginative play and internal dialogue.

Stylistically, I think the book is good, and it had me emotionally involved. Bertie's war is not waged against the Communists in Cuba but is a war of internal conflict in which she struggles with her thoughts and feelings. I cannot imagine reading this book without being drawn into her emotional state of being.

However, I was disturbed by her behavior. Over and over again, she belittles herself and struggles with a cycle of wrestling with temptation, succumbing to it, and berating herself afterward- all while trying to figure out how to survive the impending nuclear fallout. I felt trapped as I read Bertie's War, trapped in a troubled world that I could not wait to exit.

Near the story's conclusion, her father accompanies her to the woodshed. There is mention of sin and apologizing to God, but it was never really clear to me who the characters believe God is. I think the reader is to assume the God of the Bible. However, there is no talk of Biblical repentance… no mention of Jesus, the cross, or grace. I think in striving not to come across "preachy", the religious lessons are vague and leave too much room for interpretation.

Before the story concludes, Bertie learns that "Love" controls the wind and war. This along with her desire to replace selfishness with "Love" could have made for a great ending. However, without knowing exactly who Love is, what He accomplished for His people on the cross, and that grace is His free gift to be given, not earned or accomplished by the recipient, did Bertie really learn the right lesson?

I don't think she did and for that reason I also think Bertie's War misses the mark. I give it two thumbs down and do not recommend it.

Bertie's War is available from Kregel Publications for $7.99.

I was provided a free copy of Bertie's War for the purpose of completing this review. All opinions expressed in the review are solely mine. I have received no other compensation and have given my honest evaluation of the book. Please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog for more reviews.

*quoted from Bertie's War, front cover

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Hi, this is Barbara Blakey, the author of Bertie's War. Thank you for taking time to read the book and expressing your honest opinion. Comments such as yours help me grow as a writer and I appreciate knowing what readers think. As a sincere, Bible-believing Christian I hope to make an impact through writing for juvenile readers. To clear up any ambiguities, it wasn't my intent to protray Bertie as coming into a personal relationship with Jesus as she has too far to go; I did hope to portray personal growth and a realization that God can be trusted while the world cannot. Again, I am grateful for the time you took to read and review Bertie's War. God bless.