Cover image for Don't you know there's a war on?
Don't you know there's a war on?
Avi, 1937-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2001]

Physical Description:
200 pages ; 22 cm
In wartime Brooklyn in 1943, eleven-year-old Howie Crispers mounts a campaign to save his favorite teacher from being fired.
Reading Level:
500 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 3.6 4.0 48324.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 5.1 8 Quiz: 32573 Guided reading level: S.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Brooklyn, New York, 1943: a time and place so remarkable that a mere five years later, Howie Crispers, wise at sixteen, can look back to record its fleeting intensity, already long behind him in memory.In 1943, Howie's pop is in the merchant marine, dodging Nazi U-boat wolf packs an the brutal North Atlantic sea. Denny, Howie's best friend, has a father in the Eighth Army, battling Nazi general Rommel in North Africa. Every day the boys face reminders of war -- scary headlines, blackouts, scrap collections, warstamp drives.Saturday mornings, Denny and Howie both leave their worries and responsibilities behind at the 25-cent kid movies. During the week, they depend on Miss Rolanda Gossim, their teacher. She may be strict, but she's kind and a lot prettier than any movie pinup. She occupies the boys' fantasies and makes the war bearable for Class Five-B at Brooklyn's P.S. 8. When Howie discovers she's about to be fired, he needs to find out why, and -- with the help of Denny and the rest of their class -- he makes plans to keep her on the job.By turns hilarious, sad, and surprising, Avi's latest tale is a touching story of innocent love and yearning that's rich with authentic Brooklyn voices and poignant memories of the early 1940s -- days when unexpected, even shocking events took place without warning, days when, no matter what happened, you could explain it all with a simple phrase: Don't you know there's a war on?

Author Notes

Avi was born in 1937, in the city of New York and raised in Brooklyn. He began his writing career as a playwright, and didn't start writing childrens books until he had kids of his own.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4-7. The war at home is both setting and story in this affectionate comedy told in the immediate voice of Howie Crispers, who looks back a few years to 1943 when he was 11 and living in Brooklyn, New York. Howie has a crush on his wonderful teacher, Miss Gossim, and he's horrified to discover, while spying on the hateful school principal, that Miss Gossim is to be fired. Howie and his best friend have always imagined that the principal was a Nazi spy, but they don't know why Miss Gossim has to go. The spying and the secrets add to the fun, but this is mostly a story about the daily life of kids on the home front. Every chapter begins with a page of dramatic newspaper headlines about the war, which provide context for Howie's worries about his dad fighting in Europe; Howie knows families who have lost loved ones. The times described are hard, but Avi keeps the storytelling light, with fast dialogue and lots of lively detail about a time when grown-ups went away and "it was kids who had the job of trying to keep things normal. Know what I'm saying?" Like Avi's Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway? (1992), this is not so much about war as about ordinary life. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Sixteen-year-old Howie Crispers narrates Avi's (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle) poignant, funny coming-of-age tale set in Brooklyn during WWII. For the facts, readers can consult Stephen E. Ambrose's excellent volume (reviewed below), but for a flavor of everyday life on the homefront, they will appreciate Howie's recollections of his experiences as a fifth grader during one pivotal week in March 1943. The hero juggles everything from failing math grades and air raid blackouts to a crush on his teacher and worries about his merchant marine father, criss-crossing the North Atlantic. Howie also suspects his principal of being a Nazi spy, and follows him into a brownstone one morning where he overhears plans to fire his beloved teacher, Miss Rolanda Gossim (he thinks of her at night when fear overtakes him: "She was my emergency brake, my life raft, my parachute, my own private rescue squad"). How he "saves" Miss Gossim makes for a smashing story enlivened by the added emotional texture of a boy dealing with wartime realities (particularly the death of his "bestest" friend Denny's father) and romance (Miss Gossim is actually married to a missing airman and pregnant). Howie's voice, firmly rooted in Brooklyn ("You'd feel worse than a Giants fan in Ebbets Field," he says of disappointing Miss Gossim), takes on the inflections and slang of the era. The novel ends on an upbeat note, with 16-year-old Howie celebrating the end of the war and still carrying a torch for Miss Gossim. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-Howard Bellington Crispers looks back from his 16-year-old perspective to 1943 when he grappled with issues of friendship, fear, love, and loss. At age 11, Howie and his friend Denny share a crush on their teacher and they suspect their principal is a Nazi spy. However, in a sleuthing expedition, Howie learns that the principal's real perfidy hits closer to home-he is urging the firing of Miss Gossim. Howie visits his teacher and she tells him the reason for her pending dismissal-she is secretly married to an army pilot and is pregnant. Taking up her cause and disregarding his promise to keep her secret, Howie circulates a petition to stop the firing, embarrassing the young woman but securing her a reprieve until the end of the school year. Avi packs the story with authentic details of World War II in Brooklyn, NY, augmented by newspaper headlines. He peppers it with funny scenes, lots of slang dialogue between the boys, and a keen sensitivity to the adolescent psyche. Layered into the plot is the drama of the boys' absent fathers. Howie's returns but Denny's is killed, and the bittersweet ending reflects the protagonist's regret over losing Denny's friendship when his own family moves to Long Island. Though lacking in originality, this quick-moving, easily read story will be enjoyed by many readers. A more serious, complex, and in-depth treatment of a similar theme can be found in Janet Taylor Lisle's beautifully wrought The Art of Keeping Cool (Atheneum, 2000).- Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.