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Allies

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Allies Book Poster Image
Gripping, must-read novel follows young soldiers on D-Day.

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age 10+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A must-read Author's Note at the back of the book gives readers who've finished the story of Dee, Samira, Bill, and Henry a factual look at the events of that day and the people who took part in the battle. They'll learn about the 5,000 Allied ships and landing craft that brought 160,000 soldiers from eight different countries to the beaches of Normandy. How things went so disastrously for the troops who landed on Omaha Beach that commanders considered withdrawing with the surviving soldiers. That 300,000 immigrants (like Dee) served in the U.S. military during World War II. How the contributions of the French Resistance and the villagers of Normandy were essential to the success of D-Day. That 1,800 African American soldiers took part in D-Day, including Waverly Woodson, an African American medic who was the inspiration for Henry Allen's character. 

Positive Messages

The power of working together toward a common goal is at the heart of Allies. In the violence and chaos of D-Day, characters who may have just met quickly team up, make decisions together, and put their trust in one another.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each of the young characters in Gratz's story are heroes on that June day. Heroes who bravely move forward even while admitting they're frightened of what faces them. For Henry Allen, Sid Jacobstein, Samuel Tremblay, and Samira Zidante, there's another battle they must wage — fighting against the racism, antisemitism, and prejudice of some of those they're fighting alongside.

Violence

As men are leaving the landing craft and wading through the water toward Omaha Beach, they're cut down and killed by enemy fire. Those who survive must climb over dead and wounded comrades to reach the beach. On Omaha, they're pinned down by gunfire and mortar rounds. Bodies of the killed and wounded are everywhere on the beach. Paratroopers jump from planes and are killed by enemy fire as they descend to the ground. Men are blown up by underwater mines, "obliterated" by mortar shells and cut down by machine guns. The Nazis force women and children from a French village into a church and set it on fire.

Sex
Language

Minorities in the novel are labeled with nicknames common in the 1940s that the author makes clear to readers are offensive and should never to be used. A Jewish soldier is called "Sid the Yid," a Cree Indian from Canada is "chief," and an African American has been called a  "spade," "coon," and "boy" by white soldiers. To German soldiers, the French are all "Frogs," and American soldiers call Germans "Krauts." There's one use of "hell" and two of "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Alan Gratz's novel, Allies, takes place from dawn until after nightfall on June 6, 1944. This is D-Day, just as the invasion of France by Allied forces fighting against Nazi Germany is about to begin. The novel interweaves the stories of young soldiers (two American infantrymen, two paratroopers from Canada, an African American medic, and a member of a British tank crew) and two young French girls. The violence builds as the day unfolds and becomes constant, vividly recounted, and sometimes unexpected, as characters that readers have come to know are killed or wounded. Soldiers are blown up by underwater mines, "obliterated" by mortar shells, and cut down by machine guns. The Nazis force women and children into a church and set it on fire. Minorities in the novel are labeled with nicknames commonly used in the 1940s ("Yid," "spade," "coon," "boy") that the author makes clear are offensive. While the publisher recommends the book for kids 8-12, it's best for readers nature enough to deal with the harsh realities of war.

 

 

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Teen, 13 years old Written bynumber45 November 1, 2019

What's the story?

ALLIES begins before dawn on June 6, 1944, as two American soldiers, 16-year-old Dee Carpenter (a German immigrant) and his best friend, 17-year-old Sid Jacobstein, are boarding one of the boats that will take them and thousands of other Allied soldiers to the beaches of Normandy. The invasion of German-occupied France is about to begin. In a plane flying above the English Channel, two Canadian paratroopers, 19-year-old James McKay and Samuel Tremblay, a Cree Indian from Quebec, await orders to jump into a sky already filled with enemy gunfire. At midday, with the battle still raging, a British tank driver, 19-year-old Private Bill Richards, and his crew head ashore from their transport boat only find they've been taken Omaha Beach instead of the beach where British troops had been ordered to land. On Omaha, a 20-year-old African American medic named Henry Allen, a member of the only African American unit on the beach, is treating the wounded, one of them the white officer who'd tormented him throughout boot camp. It's not just soldiers who have important work to do that day. An 11-year-old French Algerian girl named Samira Zidante must take a message to Resistance fighters after her mother is captured by the Germans. And 13-year-old Monique Marchand unexpectedly finds herself aiding the wounded men on the beach. As the day and the story unfold, some characters will briefly meet and team up to work together. Some will witness new friends' sudden and unexpected deaths. As D-Day comes to an end, there are joyful reunions and the knowledge that for those surviving, the fighting will go on.

Is it any good?

Fast-paced and intense, this is a war story that doesn't spare readers the harsh reality of what it's like to be caught up in a terrifying nonstop battle. But Allies isn't just about the battles fought on that June day, it's about friendship, loyalty, heroism, and fighting against prejudice. Its young characters (almost all in their teens) might well be like someone a reader knows. It's about average young people (as one says, he "never did anything in his life to stand out") caught up in an extraordinary moment in history.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Allies. How are the battles described in this novel different from the battles you see fought on TV or in movies or video games?

  • Were you surprised at the racism and prejudice faced by several of the characters? How would you have responded if someone you were fighting alongside had called you a "spade," "Yid," or "chief"?

  • What did the story teach you about teamwork? Have you ever been in a class or on a team with kids who came from a lot of different backgrounds? How well did you work together?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love history and World War II stories

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