Synopses & Reviews
No one was saying anything except what began with Please pass the . . . I hated the way no one would talk about it, but not enough to mention it myself. Someone had left the radio on in the living room. We could hear Radio Dan signing off. He was a number-one cornball, but I listened to him sometimes, secretly. He was the only celebrity I had a personal acquaintance with, despite the fact that he wasn't always sure which Shoemaker kid I was. He lived down at the end of our street. He had this deep, friendly voice. You'd think he'd understand anything you told him. But I knew better. He wouldn't understand what Bud was doing, that was for sure.
My father got up, went in, and turned him off. He hardly ever listened to the radio anymore. Everything was about the war.
A rib roast, Bud's favorite, was being slowly eaten in silence. Even Mahatma, our old collie, who favored Bud over all of us, seemed to sense something dire was taking place. He lay just outside the dining room, his eyes fixed on Bud.When we finally left the house to take Bud to his train, Mom was crying and hanging on to him. Bud didn't want Mom to see him off. She said she'd send him some of her gingerbread and macaroons.
I don't even know if we can get packages from home, Bud said.
Of course you can! Mom said.
Dad said, Maybe he can't. We don't know how they feel aboutit.
Well, he's not going to prison, Ef.
No, he's not -- and he's not going to Boy Scout camp, either.
Ef, what a mean thing to say!
I didn't mean it mean.
Don't send me anything, okay? Bud said.
Mom cried out, Come inside, Mahatma! You can't go with him!
Jubal, ride up here with me and Tom, Dad said to me.
Tommy put the radio on.There wasn't going to be any conversation on the way to the train.
In the back of the Buick, Bud and Hope were sitting so close, you'd think there were passengers on either side of them. They were holding hands. Earlier that evening Hope had given Bud a silver identification bracelet with their initials on the front and Mind the Light on the inside.
Hope Hart was a Goody Two-shoes and an optimist, the kind whose sunny ways wore you down eventually. She had hair a color in between red and brown, and brown eyes. She always knew the right way to walk in and out of rooms, and what to say in them. It was a skill Bud didn't have. He scowled his way through most social gatherings.
Hope was a year older than Bud, and she already had a college degree in home economics. I wanted to like her. I didn't want to blame her for everything that was happening to Bud.
Remember Pearl Harbor, ' a male chorus sang on the radio.
Dad snapped, Shut that off!
I'll change the station, Tommy said.
It'll be the same everywhere, Dad grumbled.
Tommy tried, got Silent Night, tried again and got White Christmas, tried again and got some news commentator saying production of automobiles had stopped and the factories were being changed over to airplane and tank factories. In a short time production of new radios for home use would be cut in half because the materials were needed for the war. Rubber, tin, and aluminum had become precious and were being saved for only the most important uses. Men's suits --
Turn it off, Tom!
Anyone in Sweet Creek could spot us as Efram Shoemaker's kids. E. F. SHOEMAKER was the sign over the only department store in town. My father called himself E. F. because he'd never liked the name Efram. Most people called him that, anyway. If you never liked the name, why did you give it to Bud, I'd asked him?
Tradition, the answer came back. There'd been an Efram Shoemaker in Delaware County since the sixteen hundreds. Bud was Efram Elam Shoemaker. Elam after our grandfather, just as I was Jubal after our great-great-grandfather. Lucky for Tommy that our great-grandfather was named Thomas...
Bud Shoemaker rocks his small Pennsylvania town when he decides to become a conscientious objector during World War II. Now, fourteen-year-old Jubal, who has always idolized Bud, wonders if he can be like his older brother -- if he even wants to -- when Bud's decision is tearing their own family apart. In her first historical novel, young-adult fiction pioneer M. E. Kerr delivers a brilliantly insightful story about a rarely discussed aspect of wartime life.
Friends, I have to speak up and oppose this praise for a conchie, even though he is my own blood. I may love Bud Shoemaker, but I don't admire him any longer. How can I if he won't pull his weight in this war? How can you be pacifists with a madman like Hitler ready to rule the world? I want to say to you all, Wake up!
Everyone in Sweet Creek knows about Bud Shoemaker. Nothing is secret for long in that small Pennsylvania town. Bud has been asked not to lead his Boy Scout troop anymore. When he drives up at the Texaco station in his old Ford, the help take their time coming out to pump gas.
A lot of regular customers aren't buying at his family's department store, either. And a lot of the Shoemakers' friends are no longer that friendly.
Jubal Shoemaker, fourteen, finds himself being treated differently too.
One day the girl of his dreams, Daria Daniel, tells him that her father "doesn't think it's good for me to be around you people too much."
"You mean the Shoemakers? Is that what you mean?"
Bud has changed things, Jubal. A lot of people don't like what he's done. It's not just us!"
Instead of joining the armed forces with all the other young men in town, Bud Shoemaker chose to be a conscientious objector, abiding by his family's Quaker beliefs. Now Jubal, who has always idolized his brother and wanted to be like him, suddenly wonders if he can be -- if he even wants to be like him -- when Bud's decision seems to be tearing their family apart.
About the Author
M.E. Kerr is a winner of the American Library Association's Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the 2000 ALAN award from the National Council of Teachers of English. She lives in East Hampton, New York, and remembers clearly the hometown boy who chose not to fight when all the other young men, including her brother, were marching off to war.