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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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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."
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.