Cover image for Friends and enemies
Friends and enemies
Gaeddert, LouAnn.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, [2000]

Physical Description:
177 pages ; 22 cm
In 1941 in Kansas, as America enters World War II, fourteen-year-old William finds himself alienated from his friend Jim, a Mennonite who does not believe in fighting for any reason, as they argue about the war.
General Note:
"A Jean Karl book."
Reading Level:
730 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.0 6.0 34238.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.9 11 Quiz: 20848 Guided reading level: NR.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



On the day William and his family move into the parsonage in Plaintown, Kansas, he meets two boys who will also be high school freshmen. Clive is immediately hostile, introducing him as "Silly Willy" and "Preacher's Brat". During the first week of school Clive knocks William to the sidewalk and punches and pounds on him until Jim interferes. Jim and William quickly become friends. They share many classes, band, and lunch. On Saturdays, they often go fishing. Late in the autumn, they camp out, and Jim demonstrates astonishing courage. But when Pearl Harbor is bombed, war divides the town and destroys William's friendship with Jim. Caught up in the mood of patriotism that sweeps the country, William is eager to do whatever he can to support the war effort. Jim, a Mennonite pacifist, won't even sing patriotic songs, much less help the war effort by collecting scrap iron and newspapers. Clive's brother is fighting in the Pacific, but Jim's brothers refuse to carry guns. Although William's father, the Methodist minister, preaches tolerance, Plaintown's "patriotic Americans" harass their Mennonite neighbors, accusing them of cowardice and of sympathy for the enemy. William finds himself alone and isolated, distanced from Jim and Jim's Mennonite friends, yet unwilling to surrender to the demands of Clive and Clive's friends. Drastic changes within William's family add to his distress. This novel about friendship and courage explores the issue of pacifism against the backdrop of World War II.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-9. Mary Downing Hahn's Stepping on the Cracks (which won the 1992 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction) focused on one young pacifist deserter in Pennsylvania during World War II. In this story, a whole Mennonite community in Plaintown, Kansas, will have nothing to do with the war for religious reasons. The story is told by William, 14, a Methodist preacher's son, who is good friends with his Mennonite classmate Jim, until Jim and his people refuse to support any part of the war effort. The personal story fuses with the political when the local kids beat up Jim in righteous fury, and William joins the mob, to his lasting regret. The moral arguments are an integral part of the drama, and Gaeddert is fair to all sides. Does doing nothing against evil keep you innocent? Thou shalt not kill is God's commandment, but what about defeating the Nazis? The homefront battles with family, friends, and community open up the meaning of patriotism and courage. --Hazel Rochman

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-8-Moving to a new town when he is about to start his freshman year in high school isn't easy for William, the son of a Methodist minister. On his first day in Plaintown, KS, he meets both Clive, a fellow Methodist and a bully, and Jim, a Mennonite who becomes a good friend. Just as William is beginning to feel at home, Japanese bombs fall on Pearl Harbor, and what were just interesting discussions about the war become heated. In a community with a significant population of Mennonites, the question of patriotism vs. pacifism is very real, causing anger, disruption, and hurt. William's friendship with Jim seems untenable, and the situation worsens until William is forced to see and feel the consequences of narrow-minded bigotry. Gaeddert deftly handles these complex issues, weaving the common worries of adolescence into the larger concerns affecting the whole community. What is notable here is the author's skill at creating believable characters whose religious beliefs are part of the fabric of their lives. They all grapple with serious questions. What does it mean to be a good Christian? What can be done when patriotism comes in conflict with religion? How can harmony exist in a community made up of people with conflicting beliefs? Is pacifism a viable option when one is confronted with evil? These questions are as powerful today as they were 60 years ago.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.