Summary: Richard Fuller is a fifteen year-old with a taste for adventure and an ambitious spirit. Also loyal and trustworthy, Richard works at various jobs making friends everywhere he goes until the local baker suggests he train to be a signaller at a summer training camp for soldiers. Certain this is the key to achieving his dreams of seeing the world, Richard enlists when World War II starts, using his library card for identification though he is too young. But the rigours of war are not what he imagined, and though it puts him in touch with long-lost relatives in England, Richard eventually realises home might just be the best place for him after all.
Number of Pages: 198
Age Range: 13-14
Review: I quite enjoyed Jennifer Maruno’s Kid Soldier. Richard Fuller begins the book as a young fifteen year-old, but quickly matures as he takes on new responsibilities in his efforts to raise enough money to buy a bike. Each new job opens up new opportunities though, and Richard finds himself training to be a signaller which should allow him to travel the world on ships.
But then World War II starts, and Richard uses his training to enlist early. It strains his relationship with his mother, but strengthens his connection to Mr. Black, who has become a surrogate father to Richard in the absence of his own. Richard is a responsible soldier and diligent worker, but he comes to realise maybe he doesn’t have to travel so far to get what he really wants: land to cultivate and a family of his own.
It took me a while to understand the whole sock sub plot. I understood Amy was sending Richard socks and that the first pair was lost at sea but then she kept labelling the packages ‘Socks’ and they never arrived. It wasn’t until the end when she labelled them differently (and humourously) that I realised the socks were repeatedly being stolen by soldiers in need. And then I realised the cover’s background is meant to be a knitted sock as well. I liked it, especially Amy’s wild colour choices.
Though Maruno’s story leaves the reader at a certain point in Richard’s life, it is easy to imagine how his future might develop. I cared about him as a character, and loved how he understood Amy and appreciated her literal sense of humour. It was bit of a subtle romance, but it was sweet. I also loved his older brother-type relationship with Tommy, because he set a good example for him at all times, even when he was overseas.
I look forward to reading more of Maruno’s work.
“‘It’s a privilege to be able to serve my country,’ Richard said in a loud, arrogant voice.
His mother leaned against the porcelain lip of the sink and folded her arms. ‘Is it a privilege to sleep in a tent, use an outhouse, and eat meals off a tin tray?’ she asked. ‘And is it a privilege to get shot?'” – Conversation between Richard and his mother from Kid Soldier by Jennifer Maruno, page 55
“Richard looked up at the battalions of stars that revealed themselves in the night sky. The total blackness didn’t bother him. He didn’t miss traffic signals, or the neon signs of Niagara Falls. His home town was nothing but noise, movement, and excitement. Richard thought about the quietness of the farms along the Niagara River until the hardness of the ground on his bottom made him get up. He left wondering if the stones would still be standing after the war.” – Richard from Kid Soldier by Jennifer Maruno, page 148
“Richard passed a long row of brick houses, but they weren’t houses anymore. The hunk of mortar missing from the end of the row looked as if someone had taken a giant bite. When he turned the corner he faced an endless mass of rubble, brick, smouldering timber, and broken chimney pots. The smell of dust and powdered brickwork still hung in the air.
Across the street, he could see the morning sunlight filtering through the backs of the destroyed houses. Like Amy’s old doll house, the entire front wall was gone. Curtains flapped in the breeze, crooked pictures hung on the wallpapered walls, and a ceiling light swung in the breeze. It was the staircases that bothered him most. So many sets of stairs going to open sky.
At the sound of crunching glass, Richard looked at his feet. Millions of fine slivers of glass coated the road.
A woman across the road held her coat over her arms, staring up at the place where she most likely used to live. Gazing at the shrapnel-splattered walls, Richard tried to imagine what it would be like if his home town had been bombed.” – Richard from Kid Soldier by Jennifer Maruno, pages 187-188