Duck and Cover by Janet Smart

Duck and Cover

Janet F. Smart, Author

Saguaro Books, LLC, Historical Fiction, 2017 (Paperback)

Pages: 162

Amazon Digital Services LLC  (eBook)

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Adventure, Friendship, West Virginia, Bay of Pigs, Russians, Cubans

Opening: “I Survived the long drive from Cleveland. Now if I could just survive the Russians, I’d be OK.” 

Synopsis: After his dad dies in an accident at work, twelve-year-old Teddy Haynes and his mom come back to live with family in rural West Virginia. They hope to start over, but some people say the Russians are going to blow up the United States.  How can they start over if the world comes to an end?

He finds his life filled with talk of bomb shelters, a cat and dog that don’t get along, clinging two-year-old twin nephews, and a pretty girl he’s too shy to talk to. To help cope with their fears, Teddy and his friends convert an old cave in the woods into a bomb shelter. Will they be able to work together and pull through the tense-filled months during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962?  And will Teddy be able to overcome his grief from the loss of his father?

What I like about this book:

Janet Smart has written a moving and sensitive novel that will teach generations of readers about the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962. She balances the tension with a good dose of humor to lighten the anxiety the kids feel. This nostalgic read will be a stroll down memory lane for many adults as they recall “duck and cover” school drills, during an uncertain time.

The narrative is written in first person. The story is character-driven. She gives the reader deep insight into Teddy’s loss, fears, his active imagination, and his coping skills. Teddy’s a determined protagonist with big dreams of becoming an astronaut one day. He tries to encourage his friends to have dreams, because most of them, like Bobby, know they will head into the coal mines like their ancestors.  His best friend, Melvin, has a limp from polio and wears a smile that stretches clear across his face. Melvin is good for Teddy because he’s optimistic, cheery, light-hearted, logical, has a flair for using big words and enjoys a good prank.  Skeeter likes to write and organize things. So she’s handy to have around as they plan their bomb shelter, even though Teddy is uncomfortable around a girl he’s sweet on.

The theme of the war weighs heavily upon their minds. But the plot focuses on brave friends who decide to take action. It is about their big adventure of building a shelter in a “haunted” cave. They scavenge through junk yards for chairs, mattresses and wood. They fill it with first aid supplies, flashlights, canned goods and water.  There is a lot of suspense for the foursome and some uncovered secrets.

Smart’s novel would make an excellent addition to any school library. It’s also a timely read with threats around the globe.

Janet F. Smart lives in picturesque West Virginia. She is the mother of three grown boys. She enjoys writing for children, bringing her thoughts, dreams and imagination to life. A flicker of a childhood memory was the inspiration for this novel. Visit her at her website.

Greg Pattridge is the permanent host for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

21 thoughts on “Duck and Cover by Janet Smart

  1. The cover for this one is pretty powerful and brings back memories. Sounds like a great historical novel that keeps a good balance about sharing about that time period and just telling a good story.


    • Yes, I could see myself as one of those kids. I was 11. Although the stories is centered around the Bay of Pigs threat, it really focuses on the characters taking matters into their own hands and creating a safe place. It is quite an adventure.


  2. Historical fiction is a tough sell for kids these days. It sounds like the plot in this one just might be enough to entice young readers. Thanks for sharing. I’ve added it to my future read list.


    • I wasn’t sure about the cover at first, but once I got into the story it really is a great adventure story among friends. And, Melvin is my favorite character, with his logic and humor. Having polio, gives him a different POV.


  3. I’m pretty sure this book would give Mom PTSD. She was a 3rd grader during this time and did not fare well emotionally while that whole thing was playing out. Nightmares, school phobia, the while 9 yards… Yikes.

    Love and licks,


    • Then it is the perfect read for her, because it is a story of friendship and the characters taking action. I was 11 years old and I remember the “duck and cover” drills. I remember wondering what Russians looked like and thought a lot about Russian children. But, I don’t remember being really afraid. That may be due to my parents openness. And, I just knew the President would work things out.


  4. I also remember this time vividly and I was very frightened. I planned what I would do if a nuclear bomb fell near us. We lived near a Defense Research Station and could see the mushroom clouds as they did tests. It was a very scary time. Some of the town people had bomb shelters. On the farm, we had a cellar so I figured we could find shelter there. What a good idea to write a book about this time and how children dealt with it.


  5. Hi Patricia. I’m a little behind on my blogging. I just saw your post about my book. I’m so glad you liked it. I enjoyed writing it. I was 8 when the Cuban Missile Crisis took place and I only have a very faint memory of it. But that small memory of my aunt crying and saying the world was coming to an end stuck in my mind and this book is a product of that memory.Duck and Cover is currently going thru a few minor changes and is not available on Amazon, except as a kindle. But it will soon be back available on Amazon. Thanks again for the great review! Janet


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