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Reviewed by:
  • When the Sergeant Came Marching Home
  • Elizabeth Bush
Lemna, Don; When the Sergeant Came Marching Home. Holiday House, 2008 215p ISBN 978-0-8234-2083-4 $16.95 R Gr. 4-6

Ten-year-old Don and his younger brother Pat are duly overjoyed when their father arrives safely home at the end of World War II. Dad's dream of farm life, however, rocks their well-ordered urban world, and although Don still gets together regularly with old friends when his mother drives into town to buy supplies and sell eggs, his refashioned farm and school life now comprises pig swilling, egg gathering, cow milking, outdoor plumbing, and a one-room schoolhouse. Don grumbles, moans, and schemes his way in and out of his daily tasks, slowly amassing a hidden money cache that will buy him a one-way ticket to Hollywood and stardom (ten dollars should do it), but by the time his wealth has sufficiently accrued, things are looking up on the home front and Don decides what readers already know—he'll stick around after all. Lemna spins an old-school sort of tale, wholesome as brown eggs and organic milk, and the voice is definitely one of adult reminiscence. Grownup Don acutely remembers when it was like to be a kid at the mercy of adults, though, and the sting of kid-felt injustice tempers the gently comic episodes of crushing on the teacher, locking a cousin in the outhouse, enduring Sunday dinners with the tedious preacher, and Christmas shopping on a single dollar. Mom and the Sergeant's parenting challenges are subtly but cunningly interwoven throughout, and readers come to realize along with Don that the burden of post-war readjustment wasn't strapped exclusively onto his fifth-grade shoulders. [End Page 480]



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p. 480
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