Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review: Bertie's War

Bertie’s War by Barbara Tifft Blakey takes the reader on a short trip back in time to the turbulent 60’s where Communists and bomb shelters loomed large on everyone’s radar. For twelve year old Roberta, or “Bertie”, it is a reality that stifles her with fear. But, at age twelve, pretty much everything seems to strike fear into Bertie’s heart.

For most of Bertie’s life, she has used “pretend” as a way to escape her anxieties, retreating into her imagination to places that are safe and where she can control the outcome. However, as she is maturing, as she is caught in the in-between place of childhood and young adult, she is finding less comfort in her private world of pretend. Or, maybe, the world and its implications are becoming so big, they are encroaching on her ability to be a child. Either idea is something Bertie really doesn’t want to contemplate.

Thus the reader finds himself in the trenches of the mind of a twelve year old, a mind with quite a fertile imagination, at an age most of us adults wish to never revisit. Yet, author Barbara Tifft Blakey takes us there with care and tenderness, with honesty and and humor. The lessons learned at such an impressionable age will last a life time for Bertie and help younger readers to see that there is a bigger picture in each situation, that their insecurities, although normal, should not be allowed to define them or have the last say in their character.

My eleven year old could certainly relate to the power of pretend from Berite’s perspective; in fact, reading about Bertie sometimes made me think my daughter must have been secretly observed. Yet the times inwhich Bertie lived were a little closer to what I remember and what I can relate to growing up in the early 70’s when my dad kept a large container of non-perishables in the garage “in case the Russians attacked”. Bomb shelters and Communists were made much more of in the media in my day than the threat of Islam and Jihad are in the present politically correct climate. Still, the dilemma of how much to let the big problems facing our nation affect the oft bigger problems of sorting through life when you're twelve can be overwhelming at any point in history.

Besides missiles in Cuba, Bertie worries about having the approval of her father who is frequently stern and aloof. Trying to win an elusive nod of approval from him becomes almost an obsession. Trying to stay out of the woodshed (where consequences are meted out) is a close second. If Bertie can just do everything right...then everything will be alright...right?

Seems like a simple equation for peace and happiness but that all unravels in many ways as the reader walks through and processes life a la Bertie. The war that sat at the doorstep of our nation back in the early 60’s will eventually become a minor character as the war within Bertie breaks out on multiple fronts. 

Bertie’s War is an excellent Coming of Age story that reveals the depth of complexities within the seemingly simple things of life. Without preaching, it explores matters of the heart while assuming, and eventually healing, with matters of faith. 

I hope you will get your own copy of Bertie’s War, from Kregel Publications, by visiting this link. It’s also a great way to expose your child to the issues facing our nation in the early 1960’s without allowing the perversion of the times to taint their innocence. 

*I was provided with a free copy of Bertie’s War in exchange for my honest review as part of the TOS Crew. 

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Hi, this is Barbara Blakey, the author of Bertie's War. Thank you for your encouraging words. I want to know what readers think, especially since this is my first attempt at fiction. Your words made me smile.

At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.


He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.


He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.


The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.


Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.

Followers