Voices at Whisper Bend by Katherine Ayers is a young adult mystery novel set in World War II. We meet Charlotte and her brother, Robbie, who are 12 and 9 respectively. The war has only been going on for a few months when they listen to Franklin Delano Roosevelt give a fireside chat, urging ordinary Americans to do their part for the war effort. Charlotte decides to collect scrap metal and enlists her school to help.
One day all the scrap metal goes missing, propelling the mystery as to who stole it. Charlotte and Robbie run through a bunch of different suspects, discovering in the end they had misjudged all of them. One was a boy named Paul Russi who Charlotte thought for sure was the culprit. But when Paul offers to help Robbie when his hand is injured and has to go the doctor, Charlotte realizes he is a good guy. Another is a teacher who the kids thought was dodging the draft when really he was ineligible for the draft for medical purposes. Kids at school blame Mr. Willis who’s the school’s janitor and had access to the keys that unlocked the room where the metal was stored.
One day on the boat with her father, Charlotte sees a pile of scrap metal. She returns with Paul and Robbie to explore it and it turns out its the pile of stolen metal! The kids decide to watch the pile from a rowboat and one night when it’s raining, they pull ashore and catch the thieves. It turns out it was a kid from Robbie’s class and his older brother. They needed the money because their mom just died and he was supporting them.
After inviting them to their house, Charlotte and Robbie and their mother find a solution. They will plead with the draft board for an exemption for Joseph, the older brother, so he can get a real job to support the family. They will ask to stay with an elderly neighbor who is lonely and has extra rooms. And Charlotte’s dad needs help on the tugboat so Joseph will have a job that is vital to the war effort–helping him earn an exemption from the draft.
Very quick read. I usually don’t like mysteries but with all the twists and turns Ms. Ayers throws in and the very happy and uplifting ending, it was a book my whole family enjoyed. I loved how they all sat down at the end to learn why the metal was stolen and just didn’t call the cops, which would have resulted in the break-up of a family. Instead, one family is helped in a life-changing way all because the effort was made to understand the culprits. Good twist on your typical crime book.
Great historical background as we see air-raid drills in the schools, rationing of food, Victory gardens, men in war, women working in steel mills, and an entire country pitching in to defeat a horrible threat to mankind–Hitler. Highly recommended for both entertainment and historical value.