A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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?
- Author: Alan Gratz
- Genre: History
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: October 15, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 11 - 14
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: October 11, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love history and World War II stories
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.