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Willow Run    by Patricia Reilly Giff order for
Willow Run
by Patricia Reilly Giff
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The Dillon family live in Rockaway, New York, with a blue-star flag proudly showing in their window, to signify that a son, Eddie is stationed in Europe, fighting in World War II. Grandpa is a U.S. citizen, with a German accent. Margaret 'Meggie' protects and defends her Grandpa, especially when two bullies paint a swastika (Nazi emblem) on a window (she cleans it off before Grandpa sees it). Dad is offered a job in Willow Run, Michigan, in a plane factory that builds B-24 bombers. Meggie, Mom, Dad, and two cats move, while Grandpa stays behind in New York. Their new home is 'a long building that went on forever ... people streaming in and out the doors'. Dad works the factory's 'graveyard shift', and Mom the day shift. Meggie keeps close the sealed letter that Eddie gave her when he left, promising that they would open it together on his return.

Within a short time Meggie makes new friends, whose parents also work in the factory for the war effort. Arnold, the owner of an ice cream truck, is looked on with suspicion as a spy, but reality proves otherwise. Then the Dillons receive a telegram about Eddie, 'Missing in action ... Possible that he's still alive.' Meggie wonders how it would be to squeeze inside an airplane wing at the factory, fly to Normandy, France and look for Eddie herself. She writes letters to family and friends in Rockaway about Eddie's MIA status. To Grandpa Meggie writes, 'Remember the time we were lost in the Catskills and Eddie found the way home? What do you think, Grandpa? Won't he find his way again?' For an entry to a Hot-O Soup Company contest, Meggie pens, 'The first thing I'm going to do when the war is over is hope that there won't be another one. And if my brother comes home, I won't need to hope for anything else.'

Willow Run is a tough and tender story of courage learned, about the battle on the home front, about hope and the power of friendship and family support in precarious times - times to appreciate the small things, when folks expressed the deprivations of war with a simple statement, 'Just for the duration'. Patricia Reilly Giff's stories don't involve lots of action or lengthy dialog. Giff readers follow her simple, heartfelt, beautiful words. She has written many books for middle grades (e.g. Maggie's Door) and younger readers (The Polka Dot Private Eye series). And Meggie herself was first introduced in Lily's Crossing, for which the author won the Newbery Honor.

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