Nine year old Clare loves living on her family’s farm in Maine, especially now that she is old enough to help pick the potatoes that they raise. In the early summer, however, Clare will collect potato bugs to keep them from eating the plants, and her father will pay her one penny for each hundred she finds. This year the farmers in the area will receive help from prisoners of war, for it is 1944, and many of the farm workers are in Europe fighting in the war, including Clare’s older brother Patrick. When the POW’s arrive, they remind Clare of her brother and neighbors. She soon becomes friends with Peter, a young German who misses his own little nine year old sister Clara back in Germany.
This book is a wonderful lesson in tolerance and understanding. Clare’s father, whom she greatly admires, treats the POW’s with respect, even going so far as to buy gloves for them to wear in the fields. Peter and Clare help each other bear the loneliness of missing their siblings, and Clare’s family helps the POW’s celebrate Christmas in a foreign land. Pochocki also demonstrates the value and dignity of work. The POW’s are grateful to have work during their captivity and appreciate the kindness of the American civilians.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.