RACE AGAINST DEATH: THE GREATEST POW RESCUE OF WORLD WAR II, by Deborah Hopkinson, Scholastic Focus, April 18, 2023, Hardcover, $19.99 (ages 9-12)
Deborah Hopkinson explores the POW experience in Race Against Death: The Greatest Pow Rescue of World War II.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, America entered World War II, and a new theater of battle opened up in the Pacific. But US troops, along with thousands of Filipino soldiers who fought alongside them, were overtaken in the Philippines by a fiercely determined Japanese navy, and many Americans and Filipino fighters were killed or captured.
These American and Filipino prisoners of war were forced to endure the most horrific conditions on the deadly trek known as the Bataan Death March. Then, the American servicemen who were held captive by the Japanese military in Cabanatuan Camp and others in the Philippines, faced beatings, starvation, and tropical diseases, and lived constantly under the threat of death.
Unable to forget their comrades’ fate and concerned that these POWs would be brutally murdered as the tides of war shifted in the Pacific, the US Army Rangers undertook one of the most daring and dangerous rescue missions of all time. Aided by the “Angels of the Underground,” the Sixth Ranger Battalion and courageous Filipino guerrilla soldiers set out on an uncertain and treacherous assignment. Often called the Great Raid, this remarkable story remains largely forgotten. —Synopsis provided by Scholastic Focus
Race Against Death is part of Scholastic’s Focus line, which features middle-grade and YA nonfiction. The books are designed to help readers think and think critically. And this book does just that.
Author Deborah Hopkinson is no stranger to nonfiction, having written more than 70 books for young readers including picture books, middle grade historical fiction, Little Golden Book biographies, and long form nonfiction.
That experience shows in her meticulously written Race Against Death. Though nonfiction, Hopkinson’s writing is almost conversational — it reads like a novel — immediately making it accessible to readers ages 9 and up.
Hopkinson deftly weaves together multiple experiences, which enhances the overall feel. And, most importantly, she doesn’t stray from the horrors POWs experienced. She’s not gratuitous, rather writing to her audience.
Photographs throughout, a timeline of major events in the Pacific during WWII and a section with further resources help readers get a true sense of the people and places discussed in the book.
Race Against Death is excellent, and I won’t hesitate to hand it to my 9-year-old when she’s a touch more mature.
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