Janet Taylor Lisle
The Art of Keeping Cool

The Germans struck again at the end of the week. Uncle Jake told us when he came in the kitchen for lunch. He'd been over at the fort all morning and was there when the terrible reports began to come in.

“A big passenger ship was hit. The S.S. Cherokee, coming from England to New York City. She took two torpedoes early this morning.” “Where?” we gasped. Grandma, who was in the kitchen too, rolled her hands up suddenly inside her apron and turned away to the window. “Just up the coast off Cape Cod. German subs did it. She went down real fast; nothing anyone could do. So far, they're counting more than eighty lost, about half those on board.” “Eighty!” We were all shocked.

The year is 1942. Spring has come to a small village on the Rhode Island coast, and with it a regiment of soldiers and giant defensive guns emplaced in bunkers along the beaches. Offshore, Nazi submarines lie in wait for Allied convoy ships. The war in Europe seems far away, but residents in town keep a nervous eye on the ocean, and thirteen-year-old Robert and his cousin Elliot aren't the only ones taking an interest in a German abstract artist who's set up camp recently in woods near the shore. Many believe that he's a spy who roams at night signaling the enemy with a high-powered flash light. Elliot, who has a talent for drawing, is determined to seek out the artist for help with his art. Where else will he find anyone to teach him what he needs to know? Robert warns him against it, but Elliot can't stay away and the situation veers out of control. This is a story of dangers lurking inside and outside a community, of deceptive enemies and suspicions fanned to violence, and how two friends find their own very different ways of mastering the art of keeping cool.

Awards and Honors

Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 2001
Riverbank Review Book of Distinction, 2001
ALA Notable Children's Book
Horn Book Fanfare
Junior Library Guild selection
Scholastic Book Club selection

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Janet Taylor Lisle
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