Friday, January 08, 2010

Ending and Beginning Again: Clues in the Shadows: A Molly Mystery by Kathleen Ernst

It's spring of 1945, and although her father has returned from the war in Europe, he is deployed to work with seriously injured soldiers at the local vet hospital and can't seem to shake the sadness he brought home with him.

Molly, too, is weary with the long war: she can hardly remember a time before everyone was absorbed with the war effort--collecting scrap metal, rubber, rags, and even paper, working the third shift at the local aircraft factory as her friend Linda's mother does or volunteering with the Red Cross all day as her own mother does. Although the war in Europe seems to be winding down, rationing is tighter than ever, and Molly finds it hard to find the enthusiasm she once had for collecting paper scraps.

Still, when the school announces that a new award, the Eisenhower Medal, will go to the local student who collects the most paper, Molly decides to go for it, especially when her angry neighbor Ronnie Vanko taunts the girls that he will beat them out for the prize. But when Molly finds her diligently collected stack of papers, stashed in the garden shed, scattered and possibly pilfered, she and her friends decide to play Nancy Drew and stake out their stashes of paper in hopes of catching the thief. After several chilly nights waiting with a flashlight, however, Molly succeeds in catching only her neighbor, old Mrs.Petroski, who is out late, she claims, searching for her missing cat Marmalade.

Underneath the relief at the war's possible end, everyone seems to have their own war-induced problems, and even as the town celebrates the victory in Europe, Molly's visits to the local veterans' hospital where her dad works with soldiers suffering from "battle fatigue" reveal secrets and fears that she is now only beginning to understand. And when she finally catches the "Paper Prowler" in her own shed, she learns that there are secret fears and needs right next door that she has never guessed before.

Molly looked up at her parents. "Wars don't really end when the shooting stops, do they?"

Kathleen Ernst's latest in American Girls Molly Mystery series, Clues in the Shadows: A Molly Mystery (American Girl Mysteries) brings the personal history of the World War II home front a bit closer to young readers, as Molly McIntyre sees her friends' mothers, some gladly, some reluctantly, giving up their war industry jobs and men returning from service trying to find a place in a world and economy which is far different from the one they left in 1942. The times they are alway a-changing, and this notable historical fiction series does an excellent job in showing how earlier American girls dealt with the changes in their own times.

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