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War Games

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Slow-starting but tense tale of occupied Greece.

What parents need to know

Educational value

The story gives details of life under German occupation in Greece during WWII.

Positive messages

Squabbling family members draw closer and cooperate in dangerous undertakings when war comes to their small village.

Positive role models

While the boys are sometimes reckless, when it counts they are solid and dependable.

Violence

A boy is shot and apparently killed; a fistfight; boys kill birds with slingshots; talk of war, killings, and injuries.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults smoke.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, for a wartime book, there is not a lot of violence. But there is a moment when a boy is shot and apparently killed (it turns out to be a flesh wound), and there are references to soldiers fighting and being killed and injured.

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What's the story?

Petros's family are farmers in rural Greece. When their small town is occupied by the Germans during WWII, and the German colonel comes to live in their house, they try to go on with their lives as best as they can. But with a secret past and a resistance soldier hiding in their well, even the most ordinary life becomes dangerous.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Based on Akila Couloumbis' wartime childhood memories, this story has a reality much different from most Hollywood-influenced war stories. But by the same token, real life in an occupied village wasn't always filled with slam-bang excitement, and this story can be slow at times -- realistic, but not always enthralling. This is best for patient readers. Those who do have the patience will find that the suspense and tension ratchet slowly up, and there are moments that are breathless and moving.

There are no great victories or defeats, though the ending is quite satisfying, there's no resolution, little in the way of heroics, and no cardboard villains either. In fact it's the German colonel, doing his best to make an unpleasant situation less unpleasant, who says, "I think we can agree. Wars should be fought among men, not boys. Boys have to grow up. Even in war, boys play." These are people who quietly endure, who try to live a life as ordinary as possible in extraordinary times, and who know what's most important.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the situation Petros and his family are in. What would you do if you were Petros? If you were his parents? If you were the colonel?

  • What would you do if your town was occupied by an enemy? If the leader came to live in your house? How could you resist without endangering your family?

  • Why doesn't Petros' family acknowledge the colonel's kindness? Does war mean people on opposing sides have to hate one another? Why or why not?

Book details

Authors:Audrey Couloumbis, Akila Couloumbis
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date:October 1, 2009
Number of pages:232
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12

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Kid, 10 years old July 20, 2012

War Games Book Review (spoiler alert)

The book War Games takes place in Greece during World War II in the year 1941. About a year passes during the story. While reading the book I felt excitement, unfairness, relief, mystery, and pleasure. When I finished the book I was sad that the book was finished but I also felt glad. The main character is twelve-year-old Petros. He was born in America but moved to Greece when he was very little. For Petros, World War II feels far away until the German army arrives. He is scared of the Germans but also is interested in them. He has an older brother named Zola who is a teenager. He is very boastful and likes to make a competition out of everything. Petros also has a sister named Sophie. She is the oldest of the three children, at age eighteen. She spends most of her time helping Mama in the kitchen. Mama is their mother. She is very scared of the Germans and hates to hear anybody talk about them. Papa is their father. He is in charge and wants to make sure that the Germans don’t know that they are not full Greeks. Old Mario is the family’s hired work hand. Stavros is Petros’s cousin who cannot bear to lose. He is cold-hearted and loses his temper a lot. Lambros is Stavros’s brother. He is a Resistance fighter and climbed the Needle (a long, tall and skinny mountain) barehanded. The Germans come and the commander stays in Petros’s house. Before the Germans arrive Petros and his family have to bury all their possessions that have even the smallest bit of American writing on them or are from America. Lambros comes and hides out in the family’s well because he can’t get to his home and Petros has to sneak around so the Germans don’t see and bring him food because the Germans are after Lambros. Near the end Stavros gets shot and might have or might not have lived. You must read the book to find out. I really liked this book. My favorite part was when the commander was staying with Petros and his family. I would not change any of the book. I highly recommend it
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence

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