When Christmas Comes Again: The World War I Diary of Simone Spencer, by Beth Seidel Levine, was published in 2002 by Scholastic.
Rather than having the protagonist take a backseat and be a passive observer of the Historical Event of the Book, When Christmas Comes Again does something that only a few Dear America books (or more than a few—it’s hard to remember them all!) have done : the protagonist is an active part of what is taking place. It would be tempting, especially when dealing with World War I, to have the protagonist simply take note of what is happening at home. A Time for Courage did that—while several of Kathleen’s friends and family took part in the war, she mainly observed what was happening, even with the main event, suffragism. However, When Christmas Comes Again has Simone go right into the action and be a “hello girl,” one of the many female switchboard operators that helped send messages to and from the war front. It also manages to convey some of the more horrific aspects of WWI, though only a front-line view could fully capture that (I think the spin-off series, My Name is America, which has male protagonists, tackles that). And, while Levine doesn’t go into what it was like for the “hello girls” coming back home in the story, she does mention it in the Historical Notes.
My one main criticism of the story is the Deus Ex
Machina ending. It reeks of convenience and, to be honest, historical
inaccuracy. Far more realistic would have been for the sad, bittersweet ending
that seemed to be happening to actually happen, as opposed to the fairy tale
ending that did occur. However, Levine obviously felt the need to end happily
in a children’s book, and I suppose there may be some sort of historical
precedence, if nothing more than the idea that wartime communications suffer
and that oftentimes no one knows what truly happens to other soldiers.
Now that we’re getting to the 20th century,
I’m really excited for what’s coming. So many significant things happened
during this century, and I’m looking forward to seeing if the World War II Dear
America book that I remember being my favorite (One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping) is still as good as I