At 12 years old, I was a plaid skirt-wearing, flute-playing bookworm trying to maintain good grades while pining away for the same boy I'd had a crush on since the first grade. All in all, not a bad way to spend the tween years.
The author of today's book (a reprint from 2001), Disguised: A Wartime Memoir (Candlewick Press, 366 pages, $17.99), spent years 12, 13 and 14 living in a prisoner of war camp in Sumatra during World War II...
Rita la Fontaine de Clercq Zubli — her exotic and regal-sounding name is the reason I picked the book — not only endured life as a POW, she did it disguised as a boy. Her family had the foresight to cut her hair and dress her in boy's clothing to keep the Japanese soldiers from forcing her to become a "comfort woman."
So Rita became Rick, and spent her time wisely, working hard and learning how to speak Japanese, which was beneficial to her fellow prisoners and to her captors. And she seemed to come out of it with hope and love still in her heart.
"The Japanese people in this book are as the war made them," Rita writes in the book's preface. "And the same is true of the rest of us. A story of war is always a story of hate; it makes no difference with whom one fights."
Note: Disguised is laid out in short, easy-to-read chapters and would be appropriate for young adult readers.