Back to Bataan
by Jerome Charyn
published by Tribute
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: YA Historical Fiction, Standalone
Jerome Charyn is better known as an adult author, but his foray into the world of younger readers, Back to Bataan, is not to be missed. Back to Bataan has all of the literary merits of Charyn's works for adults but is at a level that even middle graders can enjoy.
Eleven-year-old Jack Dalton has had a hard time dealing with his father's death while fighting in Bataan. He dreams of going with General McArthur to claim not only his father's bodies but those of the other soldiers who died in that battle. Luckily, he has his dear friend, Mauricette, to talk to and plenty of school compositions to write on the subject. But when he loses Mauricette's attention, he does something unspeakable. The only recourse he can think of is to run away and join the hobos in the park. There, he learns some lessons just as important as those he learns at school.
Back to Bataan is simply told, but the story contains layers upon layers of depth. Jack is an instantly sympathetic character, and despite some poor choices, Charyn makes it easy for the reader to keep empathizing with him. Jack's intensity and strong beliefs make him more well-developed than many a middle grade character, and it is wonderful that Charyn does not shy away from this full characterization despite writing for younger readers than normal.
It is amazing how well Jerome Charyn is able to instantly transport readers to Jack's time. Back to Bataan is a wonderful example of MG/YA historical fiction, giving a vivid glimse of what life was like in America during World War II.