- Book Club Ideas
The year is 1944, and fifteen-year-old Noah Garrett’s parents have died from smallpox. Without any other family nearby, Noah is sent to live with his uncle, whom he has never met, in Camp Hale, Colorado. There is one small problem with this decision: Noah has been raised a pacifist, and Camp Hale is a U.S. military base for a little-known division of winter warfare soldiers called Phantoms. Can a boy who’s never seen snow and doesn’t believe in war survive among these soldiers? Noah’s struggle to resolve his upbringing with the horrors of World War II into a way of life he can believe in takes him on an incredible and riveting journey from the training camp to the frontlines of battle. Based on historical events, the story of Noah and the Phantoms of the Tenth Mountain Division is one of courage and conviction, brotherhood, and the joy in living.
Jefferson Cup Honor Book
NCSS Notable Trade Book
Finalist – Reading the West Award
Parent’s Choice Award – Silver Medal Winner
CBC Best Books for 2012
Massachusetts Center for The Book “Must-Read”
Maine Student Book Award nominee
In 1944, when his parents die of smallpox, 15-year-old Noah Garrett is sent to live with his uncle, James Shelley, at Camp Hale, Colo. Lying about his age, he enters the life of the soldiers, a winter warfare unit called the Phantoms, and learns to ski, rappel and handle himself in war games. Despite his pacifist past and his nagging conscience, Noah comes to like the camaraderie of the men and feels proud of his new skills, and at the same time the initially off-putting Shelley comes to appreciate Noah as the only family he has. Though a purposively inspirational scene stretches credulity when Noah, now a 16-year-old pacifist soldier, is put in charge of a mission in the mountains of Italy, Duble has created a likeable character in Noah, whose struggle to find out who he is and where he belongs in a world at war are convincingly portrayed and realistically resolved. Details ranging from the development of nylon and penicillin to the Holocaust, Normandy and Italian resistance add depth to this fine historical novel. 11-15 KIRKUS
Want to learn more about the Phantoms? Check out their website by clicking here
Book Club ideas
FOR PHANTOMS IN THE SNOW :
VENUE: If your book clubbers are skiers, then why not hold your book discussion at a ski resort? The Phantoms built most of the ski areas in the United States, and you might actually be skiing their territory!
If you have non-skiers in your group, how about a day of sledding followed by hot chocolate and a book discussion?
And if you live in a state that never sees snow or you decide to discuss Phantoms during the warmer months, how about holding your meeting in tents? Bring sleeping bags and flashlights. Load up backpacks with equipment you would bring along should you have to go to war. What would you take with you? What do you think would make a difference if you had to fight?
FOOD: You’re in the Army now! So why not eat like they did? K-rations were typical fare for a World War II soldier and consisted of the following: canned meat (either chicken or pork), a carrot, an apple, biscuits, a chocolate bar, some chewing gum and a bouillon soup cube or powdered packet and powdered coffee (for your book clubbers, lemonade might be a better idea). Package your meal in small cardboard boxes and eat on the floor, as soldiers would eat on the ground.
Or have your group prepare their own K-ration box – bringing what they would like best if they were going off to war. What would you include? A chocolate bar? A granola bar? Peanut butter?
Here’s what K-rations looked like:
And if eating K-rations doesn’t appeal to you, how about an Italian feast? On a large platter, serve slices of salami and cheese, olives, walnuts, warm, crusty bread with olive oil for dipping, sliced tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, and melon wrapped in prosciutto. And remind your book clubbers to eat slowly and enjoy in the Italian way of dining!
Here’s what a great Italian plate looks like:
ONLINE RESOURCE: http://www.tenthmountain.org/
SPECIAL GUEST: SPECIAL GUEST: If you live in one of the towns listed on this website, you are in luck! Real 10th Mountain Division Veterans will come and speak with you. Check out their website.
If, however, like me, you are not from around one of these areas, local veterans are usually delighted to visit book groups and talk about the price of war, the sacrifices made and the triumphs they witnessed.
Even better, why not take time during your meeting and write to our soldiers currently serving overseas? Or put together a care package to thank our men and women in the military for their service to our country.
- Have you ever judged someone without really knowing his or her background? Noah does this when he decides Daniel is disagreeable and callous without realizing Daniel’s experiences as a Jew or the fact that his relatives were being held in a concentration camp in Poland. Do you feel Noah was justified in his anger or did he jump to conclusions too quickly? If you have done the same at some point, did you regret the action as Noah did? What problems did that quick assessment cost you or the person you judged?
- When Sophia talks about her father’s sacrifice, Noah is appalled by her bravado over killing a trainload of Germans. At what point do you think the taking of lives is justified? What makes one war more acceptable than another?
- A letter cost $0.03 to mail in 1942 and took a few weeks to deliver. As a result, Noah doesn’t hear from Reverend Dixon for quite some time. How has mail delivery changed over the years and how might that affect business, government and general correspondence?
- Sophia was directly involved in the war: bombing trains, meeting with informers etc. In America, women took men’s places in the factories and filled in wherever men had left a void. But they were not allowed to be on the front lines of our military. Why do you think Sophia could have such a large role in attacking the Germans while American women were denied that right? What has changed in our military to finally allow women a real role in combat situations?
- The Phantoms were responsible for mapping their way up Riva Ridge. To do this, they had to patrol the mountain at night in the dark and in extremely dangerous conditions. Their accuracy meant the difference between men making the top of the mountain or dying in the process. In total darkness, try mapping your back yard, taking measurements between trees, swing sets, lounge chairs etc. Try drawing what you’re been able to make out in the nighttime. Look at your results in the daylight. How accurate were you?
- Daniel teaches Noah to load his pack and to ski with ninety pounds on his back. How might the heaviness of those packs affect the men’s ability to move quickly? Try this experiment. Run a third of a mile. Then fill a backpack with a few schoolbooks. Weigh the pack and put it on your back. Try running again. What was the difference in your time? Now add more weight. What are the results of running with this additional weight? Create a formula to show how this additional weight adds time to your run. Now calculate how much slower Noah might have been with ninety pounds on his back.
- Skiing equipment has changed over the years – as has the clothing worn. Compare how wool holds up in wet and cold weather versus modern day Gortex. Then try comparing modern day skis and bindings with the skis used by Noah. How does not having to apply wax made skiing more accessible? How have new bindings affected the sport?
- People regularly died from smallpox and other diseases in 1945. Then penicillin was introduced which helped combat many infections. How was penicillin first tested? And how do scientific tests in 1945 differ from those trials run today?
- Soldiers are often affected by a condition called post-traumatic stress. Cam is afflicted with this condition after having a close call with the Germans. Even today’s soldiers who may never be on the front lines but instead conduct warfare through the use of drones are finding themselves susceptible to post-traumatic stress. How do the other soldiers in the story deal with the tension of war?
- Tension is a key component of any good story. What elements and or scenes can you find in PHANTOMS that help keep the tension strong as the story progresses?
- Discuss the characters and their roles in PHANTOMS. How did each character differ from one another and advance the story. Why was each character critical to the story line?
- Discuss what the word “courage” means. In war, courage can come in all kinds of forms. How does each character embody their own form of courage as they face the perils of war?