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Homeschool Kit: Doing My Part / The No-No Boys / V for Victory / The Homeschool Edition Lesson Plans and Student Activities Review by Maggi Beardsley

Teresa Funke
Teresa Funke and Company
309 E. Mulberry Press
Fort Collins, CO 80524

The Home-Front Hero series is a great series for World War II history buffs, reluctant readers, and advanced readers. It is a collection of historical fiction books based on the lives of actual American children during World War II. The homeschool kit includes the historical fiction book and the lesson plans.

What makes this homeschool kit unique is the inclusion of The Homeschool Edition Lesson Plans and Student Activities, a small packet with a few lessons plans. For example, if you wanted to use the book to teach World War II history, it suggests that you ask the students what they know about World War II. The lesson plan includes the traditional teacher notes: anticipatory set, procedures, and closure. This would be great for a new homeschool parent. There is also a quiz about World War II. In the Additional Activities packet, Ms. Funke suggests various projects such as dioramas.

I reviewed three books. The first one, Doing My Part, is a 132-page novel about fourteen-year-old Helen Marshall from Illinois. When her mom is injured and can't work, Helen must find a way to support her family. With her best friend Janie, Helen takes a summer job at a war factory. Her neighbor, a mysterious immigrant from Germany, gives the reader a good feel of what it was like to have been born in Germany yet part of America during World War II. At the end of the book, there is a small introduction to the real Helen Marshall as well as information about Victory Gardens. There is a lot of action in this book.

The No-No Boys is a novel about Americans of Japanese ancestry who were ordered by Executive Order 9066 to leave their homes and move to internment camps. This book takes place in the Tule Lake Internment Camp. The No-Nos were the young men who refused to swear allegiance to the United States. By far, this was my favorite book. My son loved the interaction of the boys. His eyes were opened to the injustices that the children felt. My daughter loved the unexpected turns. I appreciated the coming of age story. I have read many books on the internment, but this one helps you to live it as an American child of Japanese ancestry.

V for Victory is a novel about twelve-year-old Miguel who lives in Texas. He is trying to find a way to do his part in the war effort. He works at the family grocery store but is told that he is not old enough to do anything more than sweep the floors. What twelve-year old boy today can't identify with being told he isn't old enough? Again, Ms. Funke has well-developed characters, a suspenseful plot, and lots of action. This book was a finalist in 2010 for the Colorado Book Award.

I had my children read Ms. Funke's books to give them a human feeling to U.S. history at home during World War II. I loved that the stories were based on real people. These historical fiction books were also great for my reluctant reader. The type size isn't the small adult-size print, but it's not the primary typeface either. There aren't any pictures inside the books, but the stories are thrilling because they take unexpected turns. The books are written for grades four and up. I appreciated that the dialogue used by the Japanese-born characters in The No-No Boys was not stereotypical broken English. The book helped you to understand that you could respect people who made different choices from yours and that each one could live with dignity.

At the end of Doing My Part, my daughter and I both shouted, "But what about . . .?" As in the other books, there are parts that are not resolved. For example, where does the mysterious immigrant from Germany go? Rarely had my daughter encountered this type of ending to a story. It served as a great conversational time between my daughter and me about what could have happened. My son loved the stories. He is very interested in war stories.

We loved the books. Ms. Funke is an excellent writer. The stories are not predictable, and the content and vocabulary are very rich. I did not care for the Homeschool Edition Lesson Plans and Student Activities, as I am a veteran classroom teacher and a homeschooling parent of nearly six years. However, I can see how a new homeschooling parent might appreciate the elaboration that the kit offers. For the money, I would invest in all of Ms. Funke's books and not purchase the homeschool kit.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series!

Product review by Maggi Beardsley, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2010