Review / War and Millie McGonigle

20210815ma_2849Book: War and Millie McGonigle (2021)
Author: Karen Cushman
Genre: MG, Historical (WWII)

Opening lines from the book …
George lifted the slimy creature to his mouth and bit it right between the eyes. I had seen him and the other Portuguese octopus fishermen do that a hundred times, but it still made me shudder. “Doesn’t that taste muddy and disgusting?”


1) Millie is not a particularly likeable child at the beginning of the story. However, she does have a character arc and I really liked watching her grow. I loved the little reference to the Secret Garden and how Mary Lennox isn’t the most likeable character at the start of her story!

2) I did like that the story did follow various relationships Millie has… with her younger brother and sister, with her mother, and with a new friend.

3) I love the library scenes! Millie is obsessed with finding books about dying and death, but the librarian won’t let her take out adult books yet. So, she decides to get her older friend to get a library card. The best scene is when Millie gets introduced to a very wonderful book! (“What’s a hobbit, anyway?”)

4) McGonigle is such a fun name to say! One of Millie’s quirks is that she writes her last name in the sand or the mud. And each time she did this, I’d get to say the name McGonigle in my head. 🙂

5) I like that the book doesn’t end in 1945. Most books about World War II think they have to take us to the end of the war. I’m glad this one didn’t. It takes place in 1941-42 and the story wraps up very nicely in its own way. (At least, that’s what I remember. I don’t think the book took us beyond 1942.)


1) The neighbor-lady (mother of Icky) kind of bothered me. I felt she (and pretty much all of her family, with the exception of the niece) were portrayed in a very one-dimensional way. At one point, they demonstrate their evilness by their prejudice against the Japanese. While I agree that such prejudice was NOT a good thing (and the ensuing camps were an atrocity!), these attitudes were a very real part of history following Pearl Harbor. There were “good” and “bad” people who held these views (due to fear, etc.) I think a more nuanced approach would have been stronger. I would have been more interested in seeing Millie struggle with neighbors she actually liked and admired for having these prejudices. What would Millie do? Stand up for what she believes in? Could she say something that might change the character’s mind? So many possibilities.


Overall, I didn’t love this one as much as I think I normally like these books. However, I was satisfied when I finished the book. I like how everything is wrapped up, AND that it didn’t have to include the end of the war.



Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

14 thoughts on “Review / War and Millie McGonigle

  1. I’ve had this one on my list of books to read for months. The time period is one of my favorites to experience through literature. Sadly it will be a few more months before I can get to Millie’s story. All of your likes have me even more intrigued. Thanks for the MMGM feature.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You make a really good point about more nuanced representation of prejudice. If only villains have prejudiced ideas, we can pretend that we don’t have any prejudices. Making anything black and white is a disservice to young readers in particular.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for an honest review of this book. You destructed the elements so well, I now know what to expect. Not every book we read and review is perfect. Recently, I read the Agatha award for children’s and YA titles and I have many misgivings about it. May have to re-read (in my spare time) it if I want to share it on this blog. Has anyone else read HOLLY HERNANDEZ AND THE DEATH OF DISCO by Richie Narvaez? I would love to read other MMGM reader’s opinion.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like an excellent novel! The library scenes and reference to The Secret Garden sound like wonderful touches, and in general, I’m intrigued to hear about Millie’s regular-ish life during such an awful war. I understand your point about the one-dimensionality of the other family—I’ve definitely grappled with liking people who hold harmful viewpoints in the past, and I agree that it would be worth a book taking the time to explore that issue. Thanks so much for the thoughtful review!

    Liked by 1 person

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