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Slap Your Sides

Review

Slap Your Sides

There have been many tributes to the veterans of World War II but, as with any story, there are other points of views waiting to told. Jubal Shoemaker is thirteen years old when his older brother Bud, a strict Quaker, is called to serve in the war. But Bud is a pacifist and does not feel he can join the service and remain true to his moral purpose in life.

Instead of joining up like so many others his age, Bud decides to become a conscientious objector and serve in the Civilian Public Service. This action puts him at odds with nearly all of his town. It even sets him against some members of his own family. "Conchies" (what conscientious objectors were called) are not respected during times of war and soon the Shoemaker's are subjected to harassment due to Bud's decision. Signs reading "Your son is a slacker" or "Your Boy's Yellow" appear wherever the Shoemakers go.

Jubal is a normal thirteen-year-old who just wants his peers at school and in his town to like and respect him --- especially Daria, a pretty girl with an older soldier boyfriend and brothers in the army. Daria cannot bring herself to understand Bud's stand, and despite her friendship with Jubal she strikes out against his brother. Yet, somehow the two manage to remain friends even as the town turns its back on the Shoemakers. The stress of standing firm with Bud takes its toll on the whole family, especially since a local radio host keeps the controversy pot simmering with his anti-Conchie broadcasts. It doesn't help that he's Daria's father.

SLAP YOUR SIDES is a very difficult book to read at times. Kerr does a superb job of recreating the atmosphere of the war years for the reader. This is in part due to our being used to thinking of that time as a clear cut era without the confusing shades of gray while Kerr points out that that kind of clarity never really existed. Kerr asks us to question which is the more moral standpoint and whether doing something wrong can ever be right. I enjoyed SLAP YOUR SIDES because the characters and their relationships with each other never fail to feel truthful. This is not a book to occupy a rainy afternoon, it's a book for life.

Reviewed by Cassia Van Arsdale on October 1, 2001

Slap Your Sides
by M. E. Kerr

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2001
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060294817
  • ISBN-13: 9780060294816