Molly Donnelly (book)
Book cover. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Written for younger teen readers (6th-9th grade), Molly Donnelly by Jean Thesman chronicles the life of a young Irish American girl from ages 12 through 16 during World War II in Seattle, Washington. Serving as a subplot of the novel, one of Molly's best friends is her next door neighbor, Emily Tanaka, who along with her family is sent to an incarceration camp for the duration of the war. While on a picnic at the beach on Sunday December 7 with Emily and another friend Louise, Molly's Uncle Charlie suddenly runs up to them to say that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. Emily, who moved to Washington from Honolulu three years prior, still has family in Hawai'i and frantically runs home.
Early Monday morning, Molly yells for her mother when she sees FBI agents carrying the Tanakas' radio and escorting Mr. Tanaka away into a waiting car. The Tanakas decide to leave the house to join their extended family until they figure out what to do. Two months later, Molly receives a short letter from Emily acknowledging Molly as her best friend in Seattle and that Emily would try to see her one last time before leaving to wherever they were going to go. Molly begins writing down her thoughts after she receives a leather bound journal from Uncle Charlie for Christmas, and over the years her words become addressed to Emily.
As Molly grows up, she shares feelings about the war and how it is negatively impacting her family. After a meaningful talk with Uncle Charlie about her future, Molly realizes that she must make her own way in life and that her best option is to pursue her betterment through education. At the book's conclusion, Molly is sixteen years old, the end of the war is declared, and Molly has an unexpected visit and news from the Tanaka family.
As with The Moon Bridge by Marcia Savin and Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook by Beverly Patt, Molly Donnelly explores the common theme of friends who are separated by wartime incarceration, though to a lesser degree than those books.