Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis

Today at lunch, I finished this year’s Coretta Scott King Honor Book, Mare’s War. I received it from Random House a few months ago and thought that it looked interesting, but never got around to reading it (I know I read a lot, but I still don’t get to read everything I want to). I added it to my library’s collection, and after hearing that it had won the award, I patiently waited for a student to return it so I could check it out. After booktalking it to a student on Friday, I decided to, you know, actually read it myself.

Mare’s War is about two different generations of teenage girls – Octavia and Tali, who live now and who are, much to their dismay, on a cross-country trip with their unconventional grandmother, Mare. As they travel, Mare tells them about her own years as a teenager, and how she ran away from home to serve in the army during World War II.

Mare is extremely likeable, but she is so much more tough than I am that I was a little bit intimidated by her! I would definitely want her in my corner. I related a bit more to the current teenagers, but they aren’t nearly as filled in or as interesting as Mare. I enjoyed the three women getting to know and appreciate (or at least tolerate) each other better, but this story really shines when Mare is talking about her time in the army. I didn’t know anything about African-American women serving in the army during World War II, and it managed to be interesting and informative while also painting a vivid picture of what life was like for those women.

I am so glad that I had already added this book to my school’s collection, because I’d recommend it for ages 12+ and I will probably look into getting more copies. I could see a great book club discussion or literature circle focused around this title, and I will continue to pass it on to my students who are looking for thoughtful books with African-American characters.

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