2008 Nēnē Award Essay Contest Winners

A Boy at War by Harry Mazer

4th Grade Winner
5th Grade Winner
6th Grade Winner
Jack Diehm
Aina Haina Elementary
Nathaniel Kaneshige
Maryknoll Grade School
Chrislin Hearn
Pearlridge Elementary

4th Grade Honorable Mention
5th Grade Honorable Mention
6th Grade Honorable Mention
Nova Clark
Saint John Vianney School
Jessica Tabe
Mililani Ike Elementary
Shauna Hearn
Pearlridge Elementary


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Jack Diehm, 1st place
grade 4  Aina Haina Elementary

I thought A Boy at War was an exciting book about the war at Pearl Harbor and Adam Pelko's life. I think it won the 2007 Nēnē Award because it tells of an interesting time in Hawaii's history and how war affected a young boy's life.

A Boy at War has interesting facts about Hawaii, the war at Pearl Harbor and real history. The Arizona Battleship split in half and 800 or 900 people drowned. The flag of the Arizona can still be seen out of the water today. The book tells about places in Honolulu, like Chinatown, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Pearl Harbor, and other places that can still be seen today. This book also teaches about what it was like to live in the military at that time. I learned if you live in the military, you move a lot and meet many different people. Adam met Davi, Martin, Brown, and Rinaldi during his time in Hawaii.

I think the book also won because it was an exciting story of how the war affected Adam's life. It was exciting how Adam had to do a lot of things to try to find his dad. For example, Adam went on another boat that was getting hit with bombs and got skinned by a bullet. Then he searched the Red Cross patients and ended up a volunteer. The war also painfully affected Adam's life when he saw his dad's ship (the Arizona) split in half and sink.

What made A Boy at War an award-winning book is its exciting story of Adam's life during a real time in Hawaii's history. I didn't want to put this book down.

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Nova Clark, Honorable Mention
grade 4  Saint John Vianney School

A Boy at War won the 2007 Nēnē Award because it has two really good things: suspense and drama. The suspense part was when you don't know if Adam will die or not, see his family again, and if his best friend's dad will be set free. Davi is Adam's best friend. Davi's dad was captured because he was Japanese. The Japanese were at war with the Americans. The drama was when Pearl Harbor was bombed, men were dying, and Adam couldn't find his family.

I also enjoyed the way the author blended the story all together. It is really fascinating the way the words were written makes me feel as if I was there when Pearl Harbor was bombed and was part of the other things Adam did.

I liked the character of Adam. He is a really cool, smart, caring, and an adventurous person. He seemed like he was made to be in the military. He faces every day challenges a teenager has but in a greater danger range.

Harry Mazer, the author, is really good at writing books. He makes books fun, exciting, and makes you feel like you want to read more. A Boy at War is like a history book and a realistic book mixed together. The author also wrote other books in the series: A Boy No More and Heroes Don't Run.


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Nathaniel Kaneshige,  1st place
Grade 5  Maryknoll Grade School

December 7, 1941, started off as a beautiful Sunday morning. Adam went out fishing with friends Davi and Martin in Pearl Harbor. They found a small rowboat hidden along the shore. After they rowed out in the harbor, they saw planes but were unaware that they were Japanese. Then the bombing began.

In a matter of hours, Adam changed from a carefree teenager to a young man forced to grow up and become almost a "war hero." It was amazing. I believe this is the part of the book that caught so many young readers' attention and made A Boy at War by Harry Mazer the 2007 Nēnē Award winner.

But why do YOU think so many readers picked this book? One thought is that young readers, if they are like me, enjoy reading books about war. Another thought is that young readers in Hawaii can relate to this book because they might have relatives who experienced World War II. I know that after reading this book, I wanted to learn more about the experiences my grandparents had as they lived through the war.

In the book, both Adam and Davi lost their dads. Adam's dad died as he went down with the USS Arizona and Davi lost his dad to a Japanese internment camp. I know that one is a forever loss and the other is not but, to a teenage boy, not having a dad around is devastating. That's another reason why I think this book was chosen.

Even if this book is a fictionalized account of the war, it really touched me. It must have touched many others because we voted A Boy at War the winner!


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Jessica Tabe , Honorable Mention
Grade 5  Mililani Ike Elementary

If I had to describe A Boy at War, I could go on, and on, and on... Well you get the idea. I think that A Boy at War won the 2007 Nēnē Award for three main reasons. The book is action-packed, educational, and descriptive.

First of all, A Boy at War is filled with action. Picture that you're Adam, fishing with Davi and Martin, and see tons of Japanese fighter planes come out of nowhere. Then, you see your father's ship, the U.S.S. Arizona, sinking. To top it all off, you become a marine with a gun in your hand, getting ready to defend your country... Talk about intense!

My second reason that not only is this story entertaining, it also includes the history behind World War II. For example, I learned about racial prejudice. When Adam's father tells Adam not to hang around Davi, I realized that war is not just soldiers fighting. War also hurts people, like Davi's family being taken away just because they're Japanese. While reading this book, it felt like I was experiencing the war with Adam and Davi. Now I understand how complicated war is.

Finally, Harry Mazer is a terrific storyteller! I practically found myself in the scenes. I could picture the scene very clearly when Adam was riding in a car in Waikiki because I visited Waikiki. Also, when Adam got into the fight, I could smell the smoke and hear the gunfire. With all of the colorful descriptions, it's IMPOSSIBLE to have a blank mind.

I think that A Boy at War won the 2007 Nēnē Award because it's an action-packed tale that includes the friendship of a haole kid and a Japanese local with information on World War II. Great entertainment with great education? Now that is amazing!


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Chrislin Hearn,  1st Place
Grade 6,  Pearlridge Elementary

      Boy At War is about a military child who lives in Hawai'i during World War II.  This book won the 2007 Nēnē Award because it is a historical account of the Pearl Harbor bombing that is appropriate for children. This novel shows character development, a suspenseful plot, and the viewpoints of the residents of Hawai'i. Having many different qualities, Boy At War is a interesting and educational book.
        Boy At War won the Nēnē Award because the setting is in Hawai'i. The author talks about places like Honolulu, Punchbowl, and Chinatown. For example, "Davi lived downtown near Hotel Street...the area was called Chinatown..." Since many Hawaii children are familiar with these places, it makes the story realistic because the setting is easily pictured. We can relate to the character's opinions of the places, and can compare them to present day Hawai'i.
        Boy At War shows different viewpoints on the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It shows the viewpoint of the local people during the bombing. "Why hadn't they [the military] known the attack was coming? How did they let it happen?" It also showed the viewpoint of a military child whose father died on the Arizona. "Everything happened at once. The plane...the bullets darting across the water...screams...the boat shooting up into the sky...Something awful had happened...the sky was black where the Arizona had been. When a book has many different viewpoints, it is often more interesting to read.
        My final reason why Boy At War won the Nēnē Award is that this book appeals to children of all ages. There is a lot of action, which makes this book fun and exciting to read. It is a current fiction about the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the vocabulary is appropriate for children.
        In conclusion, Boy At War won the Nēnē Award because it is educational and enjoyable for all to read.


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Shauna Hearn,  Honorable Mention
Grade 6,  Pearlridge Elementary

"Boy at War" won the 2007 Nēnē award because the characters show growth, it shows a different viewpoint on the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the book is based on Hawai'i.
        Through out the book, Adam, the main character grows. At first, his main concern was to fit in with the other kids. He doesn't think about anything else beside himself. When the bombing happens, he realizes that there is more to just his world. There are problems like finding his dad, or Davi's dad taken away. These are big problems compared to his little ones. He starts to become more open to the outside world and becomes a bigger person.
        In most Pearl Harbor books, it shows the viewpoint of Japanese children and how their fathers taken to an Internment Camp. But, this book shows the viewpoint of a military child who moved to Hawai'i before the bombing. The different viewpoint keeps the readers interested on the book. It shows the side of the people who thought the Japanese were signaling the planes. It also shows how hard it is to fit in a place that is different.
             The author makes the reader picture the setting. Readers can see where Adam is going and what the building looks like. They have been to all those places before: Punchbowl, Chinatown, Pearl Harbor, and Aiea. Seeing the setting makes it easier for the reader to understand the book. Also, readers  see how Hawai'i has changed from 1942 to 2007. It is interesting to make the connection on the place that he lives.
        "Boy at War" won the 2007 Nēnē award because of its character growth. Readers are interested in how Adam turns out. The book shows different viewpoint on the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it is set in Hawai'i. Readers can really picture where Adam is going and that makes it easier to understand the book.


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