Book Review: Incommunicado by Randall Platt

Incommunicado (1)

Twelve-year-old Jewels Stokes doesn’t have an easy life, but her spunk and determination at least make it interesting. Her brother Rex, a senior in high school and a nerd at that, takes life pretty seriously and mostly thinks his sister is a pest. Their mother hasn’t the best reputation in the small coastal town of Sea Park, Oregon, and the two kids are left pretty much on their own. Jewels has one true and faithful friend, Tommy Kaye, a respected resort owner who has contributed generously to the town.

When Pearl Harbor is bombed on December 7, 1941, people are shocked, but uncertain just what it means. Where is Pearl Harbor, anyway? But when the facts are uncovered and the townspeople realize the Japanese are suddenly their enemy, their rage is directed at Jewels’ friend Tommy Kaye, who is of Japanese ancestry.

The town erupts into paranoia and it’s obvious that Tommy Kaye is in danger. When the FBI gets into the picture, it’s clear that Jewels has to do something to save her friend from what they’re calling “internment” or even prison.

Incommunicado is a fun read, but more than that, it offers a glimpse of what life was like in 1941, and how people reacted to the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The author does a good job of describing mob mentality, of how people get caught up in rumors, and their fear of the unknown. Platt goes into some detail about the precautions people had to take during the war, such as maintaining blackout conditions in coastal towns. She describes gas, food and specific product rationing, and collecting goods needed during the war, such as scrap metal.

Although this book might be considered a coming-of-age story, I found it enlightening and enjoyed this spunky girl’s attempt to make things right during the turmoil of World War II.

To learn more about Incommunicado and author Randall Platt, visit

Book Review: Liberty’s Christmas

Libertys Christmas

Liberty’s Christmas by Randall Platt follows the unpredictable path of teen Liberty Justice Jones. An unusually bright girl, Liberty says of herself, “A brain like mine requires strict control.”

When Liberty gets even for a trick played on her, she finds herself in deep trouble, at school and at home. The Great Depression has hit Texas hard and the family struggles to make ends meet. In fact, they’re losing the battle. Their home and tree farm are being threatened with foreclosure.

Liberty has a plan, but like many of her plans, she hasn’t worked out all the details. If she could only win a Christmas tree contest being held in Austin, the prize would solve many of their problems.

When her prize tree is “accidently” cut down and hauled away with other trees, Liberty takes drastic action, getting herself and her companion in ever-deepening trouble.

Liberty’s Christmas shows the hardships of the Depression in vivid detail. It was a tough time for many, particularly those already on the edge of poverty. But through it all, a teenage dynamo is determined to make life better for her family. Humor, love, compassion, and resourcefulness bring this book to the forefront of excellence. The book’s glossary identifies regional expressions of the 1930’s.

Reviewer’s Note: I was present when Randall Platt received the coveted WILLA Award for Children’s/Young Adult Fiction & Nonfiction at the Women Writing the West conference in Kansas City, Missouri. When accepting the award, the Northwest author shared that Liberty’s Christmas originally took place in the Northwest, known for its Christmas trees. However, when Texas Tech University Press accepted the book for publication, they requested that she use a Texas setting, explaining that yes, Texas does indeed grow Christmas trees. The resulting regional research involved is a tribute to Platt’s creative talents and dedication to her craft.