The Big War: A Boy at War-A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Harry Mazer
Fourteen-year-old Navy kid Adam Pelko ignores his father's xenophobic order to avoid his nisei school friends Davi Mori and Martin Kahahawai and heads out with them for a pre-dawn fishing trip in the waters of Pearl Harbor. The date is December 7, 1941.
As the sun rises above the ocean, a wave of aircraft begin to strafe and bomb the American fleet anchored there, including the Arizona, where Adam's father is on duty. As the horrified boys recognize the planes as Japanese, their rowboat is strafed and Adam slightly wounded. Struggling back into the boat, he finally locates his Japanese-American friends and gets them to shore. In the confusion onshore, Adam is mistaken for an off-duty sailor and sent aboard a launch to help rescue crew from the burning ships. Hoping to find his own father, Adam complies and spends the rest of the daylight hours hauling in burned and dying sailors.
Back home, Adam waits with his family for days, hoping for good news about his father and fearing a Japanese invasion. When he steals away from home to check on Davi and Martin, Adam finds Davi bitter at the sudden arrest of his father and the overt hatred against Japanese-Americans he has met in the days after the attack. When Adam's father is declared missing in action, the family is hurriedly ordered aboard ship for evacuation to the mainland, casting their leis into the sea opposite Diamond Head, pledging their hope to return.
Mazer's A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor describes the scene of the attack on Pearl Harbor historically, factually, and yet emotionally through the realistic voice of a fourteen-year-old boy who watches his father's ship bombed and sinking in Pearl Harbor. The immediate post-attack hatred of the native Japanese-Americans is again hinted at through the relationship of Adam, nicknamed "haole boy," and Davi Mori, whose new friendship is threatened by the events of that fatal day. This slim novel is a great way for young readers to understand the sudden and almost unbelievable events of that day which changed the world.