D-Day: Battle on the Beach (Ranger in Time #7), by Kate Messner

Ranger outdoes himself in Kate Messner’s just-published D-Day: Battle on the Beach (Ranger in Time #7), (2018, 160 pages). He sniffs out landmines, finds soldiers under the surface of the water, locates a boy in a collapsed house, provides bandages and, of course, carries out his snuggling duties. Like all the other Ranger in Time books that I have read and reviewed (my reviews: #1,#2#3, #4,#5,#6), this is a solid time travel book choice for third to fifth graders.

Messner often addresses racism in this series, and always in a manner that is age appropriate for her readers. In this story, one of the main characters is a Jewish boy who has fled Nazi-occupied Paris and must pretend to be Catholic while living with a family in the countryside. The other main character is an African-American soldier who fights for his country abroad despite facing racism back home.

The true story behind this kids’ book is that of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only unit of African-American soldiers to land at Normandy on D-Day. I had no idea balloons were at times used defensively in war until I read this book. Soldiers raised the balloons over battles to protect the men and their equipment from strafing by the enemy flying in planes overhead. The balloons also forced enemy aircraft to fly higher, because planes could lose a wing if they hit one of the steel cables hanging down from the balloons. Here is a trailer for the book Forgotten about the group:

And here’s a video summary of D-Day: Battle on the Beach from Scholastic:

My knowledge of the Battle of Normandy is on a par with that of most fourth graders, so I think I can speak for them in saying more information clarifying the different groups involved in the war–French people, German people, and Allied soldiers–would have been helpful. Also, I’m not sure all kids of this age know what a landmine is, so a couple more sentences would have been helpful. Who hid them on the beach? I’m assuming it was the Germans, but one might wonder if it was the French. The movements of the groups of men on the beach were a bit confusing, but after all, that’s the fog of war for you. Finally, I think most kids would want to know a little more about the family with whom Leo was staying, and if they were related in any way. The Ranger books are short, quick reads, so I understand why Messner omits some details. One aspect of the end of the story is deliberately left unresolved, in a way that makes perfect sense when you read Messner’s notes at the end of the book.

For more middle grade book reviews, follow the links at Greg Pattridge’s blog Always in the Middle.

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