James D(ouglas) Forman KENNETH L. DONELSON and ALLEEN PACE NILSEN - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Of all writers for young adults, James Forman stands out as the best war novelist. His books come closer than most to catching the misery and stink of war coupled with the pathos of real people caught up in events they cannot comprehend or manage. Perhaps most significant, Forman's novels give us heroes, believable ones, in the midst of war, acting as heroes might, unsure, frightened, bewildered, and horrified. Yet his characters have strength and nobility. They would probably deny the last adjective, but they would be wrong. Ceremony of Innocence, his best book, is based on an actual episode, but even had it not been factually documented, readers would have believed the events could have happened. We need to be able to think that people like Sophie and Hans Scholl, a sister and brother, had the courage in 1942 Germany to produce and disseminate leaflets attacking Nazism, no matter how sure their fate.

The Traitors takes place a few years earlier, but the story of Pastor Eichhorn and his two sons, Paul (a foster son), who is willing to fight Nazism, and Kurt, who is an ardent Nazi, is equally believable and almost as compelling. (p. 299)

Kenneth L. Donelson and Alleen Pace Nilsen, "Life Models: Of Heroes and Hopes," in their Literature for Today's Young Adults (copyright © 1980 by Scott, Foresman and Company; reprinted by permission), Scott, Foresman, 1980, pp. 283-316.∗