Louisa June and the Nazis in the Waves -- middle grades novel that shares a story about the homefront during World War II


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

What have you learned about World War II? I know we all have heard about Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. We all know about the concentration camps and the evil that happened in them. You may have heard about the Japanese internment camps here in America. Over the years I have shared many books for different ages about World War II as well as posts about heroes of the time. However, I personally had not heard about the U-boats that threatened the East coast during the war. Today I am sharing a middle grades novel that shares a story based on some of the events on the East coast during World War II. The book is Louisa Jane and the Nazis in the Waves by L.M. Elliott. It goes beyond just sharing about the war. This book also includes mental health issues, family, and grief.

From the Publisher:

In this moving and timeless story, award-winning author L. M. Elliott captures life on the U.S. homefront during World War II, weaving a rich portrait of a family reeling from loss and the chilling yet hopeful voyage of fighting for what matters, perfect for fans of The War That Saved My Life.

Days after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Hitler declared war on the U.S., unleashing U-boat submarines to attack American ships. Suddenly, the waves outside Louisa June’s farm aren’t for eel-fishing or marveling at wild swans or learning to skull her family’s boat—they’re dangerous, swarming with hidden enemies.

Her oldest brothers’ ships risk coming face-to-face with U-boats. Her sister leaves home to weld Liberty Boat hulls. And then her daddy, a tugboat captain, and her dearest brother, Butler, are caught in the crossfire.

Her mama has always swum in a sea of melancholy, but now she really needs Louisa June to find moments of beauty or inspiration to buoy her. Like sunshine-yellow daffodils, good books, or news accounts of daring rescues of torpedoed passengers.

Determined to help her Mama and aching to combat Nazis herself, Louisa June turns to her quirky friend Emmett and the indomitable Cousin Belle, who has her own war stories—and a herd of cats—to share. In the end, after a perilous sail, Louisa June learns the greatest lifeline is love.

From Me:

To start I was fascinated to learn about the U-boats. In fact, I wasn't sure it was true and googled it to see if it was. In this book we meet Louisa June who is the youngest of five kids. Her father is a tugboat captain. Her mother works the farm. She and her siblings help with both. The family is going through changes. One brother is getting ready to leave for college in the fall. Another is off to train for the war effort. The other older brother is a Second Mate of a freighter. Then her older sister announces she wants to go to Norfolk to learn to weld and help build the liberty boats. That leaves Louisa to the chores for the family and for watching over their mother who suffers from depression and is often in her own world or fog as they call it.  There are also rumors of boats being torpedoed off the shore by German U-boats, but the navy is denying it or at least trying to silence the gossip. Then the incident happens and throws the entire family into grief as one of the family members dies from a torpedo. 

This book pulls you in. It gives you a bit of a history lesson but also explores family relationships and mental health issues. The story goes into a bit of the history of the parents and their relationship and introduces Cousin Belle who is that strong, single older woman who demands respect. The characters are well developed, and the reader gets a look at what it was like to live with the fear right in their own backyard. I love that the book is not your typical middle grades story. It is about the war and thus not as happy as most books. It deals with true feelings of loss, fear, and worry about loved ones. I love how it delves into the world of depression and is historically appropriate for how it was dealt with at the time of the war. It is entertaining and suspenseful. The reader wants to see what happens next and there seems to be twists and turns throughout it.

At the end of the book in the Author's Notes, L.M. Elliott shares a bit of the history on which the book is based. She goes through the different events that happen in the book and shares the real story of those events. She also shares about the historical view on depression and anxiety treatments and views. She goes further to share resources for anyone who is suffering from depression or anxiety and discusses how there are treatments now for it. 

I think this book would be an amazing summer read for kids and also an amazing addition to history classes. I hope you will check it out!