Race Against Death: The Greatest POW Rescue of World War II (Scholastic Focus)

by Deborah Hopkinson (Author)

Race Against Death: The Greatest POW Rescue of World War II (Scholastic Focus)
Reading Level: 6th — 7th Grade

A thrilling account of the most daring American P.O.W. rescue mission of World War II.

Scholastic Focus is the premier home of thoroughly researched, beautifully written, and thoughtfully designed works of narrative nonfiction aimed at middle-grade and young adult readers. These books help readers learn about the world in which they live and develop their critical thinking skills so that they may become dynamic citizens who are able to analyze and understand our past, participate in essential discussions about our present, and work to grow and build our future.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, America entered World War II, and a new theater of battle opened up in the Pacific. But US troops, along with thousands of Filipino soldiers who fought alongside them, were overtaken in the Philippines by a fiercely determined Japanese navy, and many Americans and Filipino fighters were killed or captured.

These American and Filipino prisoners of war were forced to endure the most horrific conditions on the deadly trek known as the Bataan Death March. Then, the American servicemen who were held captive by the Japanese military in Cabanatuan Camp and others in the Philippines, faced beatings, starvation, and tropical diseases, and lived constantly under the threat of death.

Unable to forget their comrades' fate and concerned that these POWs would be brutally murdered as the tides of war shifted in the Pacific, the US Army Rangers undertook one of the most daring and dangerous rescue missions of all time. Aided by the "Angels of the Underground," the Sixth Ranger Battalion and courageous Filipino guerrilla soldiers set out on an uncertain and treacherous assignment. Often called the Great Raid, this remarkable story remains largely forgotten.

Sibert Honor author Deborah Hopkinson presents an extraordinary and unflinching look at the heroic servicemen and women who courageously weathered the worst of circumstances and conditions in service to their country, as well as those who answered the call to save their fellow soldiers.

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
A fascinating, nuanced, and emotional historical narrative. 

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-6--Told through oral histories, letters, and firsthand written accounts, the rescue of World War II prisoners of war from the Cabanatuan Camp in the Philippines is a harrowing story of unimaginable hardship, courage, and ingenuity. Beginning with the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1942, Hopkinson guides readers through the events that lead to tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers and civilians being forced on a 65-mile trek known as the Bataan Death March. Once the survivors arrive at their final destination of Cabanatuan, readers are exposed to the realities of life as prisoners of war. A generous number of black-and-white photographs and maps provide engaging visual aids that assist in bringing this extraordinary account to life. A bibliography is included and extra resources, including links to relevant websites, are shared throughout. Hopkinson also works in stories of the predominantly Latino 200th Coast Artillery from New Mexico along with stories of white and Filipino civilians. All other soldiers mentioned are white and Filipino. VERDICT Told with great detail and through the perspectives of the individuals who lived the experience firsthand, this is an impactful book that will raise awareness and encourage young readers to seek more information; a must-buy for any public or school library.--Maryjean Riou

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

This well-researched work chronicles the experiences of American prisoners of war in the Philippines during WWII, beginning just after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor and continuing through the 1945 Cabanatuan prison camp raid. Hopkinson (We Must Not Forget) interweaves eyewitness accounts and archived testimonies, maps and b&w photographs, and a lively third-person narrative history across three sections, lending a feeling of immediacy to the work; interstitials ("Before We Head to Bataan: A Bit of Background") contextualize specific aspects of the conflict. While the title highlights the rescue, the telling surveys the U.S. retreat from the Philippines, the fall of Bataan and the Bataan Death March, and the POW prison camp rescue, incorporating experiences of American and Filipino citizens, nurses, and soldiers, among others. Never shying away from the brutal realities ("In Germany in WWII, POWs died at a rate of 1.2%.... In the Philippines, POWs died at a rate of 40%"), this work of narrative nonfiction directly relates conditions endured--including sickness, starvation, and acts of war and torture--and the risks of the subsequent rescue mission, making for an informative look at this under-reported part of WWII. An author's note offers context; an epilogue and extensive back matter conclude. Ages 9-12. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Praise for We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport:

* "Historical context, personal stories, and letters are seamlessly integrated in this history of frightened refugee children in a new land and their brave parents' making 'the heart-wrenching decision' to send their children away with strangers to a foreign country. Well-crafted, accessible, and essential." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"[A] moving tribute to the organizers of the Kindertransport and to the courage of the children involved. Generously illustrated with black-and-white photographs, the book is extremely well researched and a valuable contribution to Holocaust literature." — Booklist

Praise for D-Day: The WWII Invasion that Changed History:

* "Hopkinson has compiled a comprehensive and absorbing overview... this insightful title, chock-full of primary sources, is a strong purchase." — School Library Journal, starred review

"Hopkinson is particularly adept at directing attention to the stories behind the heroic stories." — Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"How does an author sequentially chronicle multiple, rapidly developing, and simultaneous events and maintain not just coherence, but suspense? Hopkinson employs her signature kaleidoscopic style effectively here: synthesizing complex events into a compelling narrative arc, and sampling myriad voices to add texture and color to the story, while never losing sight of the bigger picture." — The Horn Book

"Such major figures as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley get plenty of attention, but more is given to the experiences of the soldiers who waded ashore under fire or parachuted behind enemy lines. Hopkinson weaves their personal accounts with those of observations by Ernie Pyle and others to bring the invasion vividly to life... An attractively packaged, engrossing history that will appeal to readers fascinated with military strategy." — Kirkus Reviews

"With thoroughness and clarity, this title brings D-Day into focus by breaking it down into components and focusing on human voices and perspectives... provides a wealth of information clearly presented alongside many black and white photos, resulting in an engaging read even for those who may not be interested in a book about military history. The complexity of the historical task undertaken, the challenges of the terrain, and the courage required of those involved is conveyed by the author without hyperbole and by allowing the participants to tell their own stories. Highly Recommended." — School Library Connection

Praise for Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific:

* "Hopkinson crafts a gripping narrative... Fascinating World War II history for history buffs and browsers alike." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "Readers wait anxiously alongside crew members amid silence and dangerous heat and oxygen levels as the submariners narrowly escape enemy detection or brace for depth charge explosions that rattle bones, fray nerves, and signal possible death... With a fascinating blend of submarine mechanics and tales of courage, readers will dive in deep." — Booklist, starred review

* "It's an appealing, engrossing package for readers fascinated by heroism and military strategy." — The Horn Book, starred review

"The real appeal, of course, is danger and heroism, and in drawing liberally from first-person accounts by surviving veterans, Hopkinson often emulates the tone of Greatest Generation memoir... And kudos to Hopkinson, whose eagle eye even located the contingent of women nurses evacuated by sub from the Philippines." — Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"A riveting narrative nonfiction selection for middle school collections." — School Library Journal

"The diverse individual stories... make the history come alive." — School Library Connection

Praise for Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark:

A Sydney Taylor Notable Book

An NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Book

A Bank Street Center for Children's Literature Best Children's Book of the Year selection

A Cybils Award Finalist

"[A] spirited, inspiring, and extremely well-researched book... ideal for both classroom use and independent reading." — Booklist

"With numerous pictures and illustrations accompanying the text, this is a fascinating look at a little-known corner of WWII." — Publishers Weekly

Praise for Titanic: Voices from the Disaster:

A Sibert Honor Book

A YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist

An ALA Notable Children's Book

An IRA Teacher's Choice

A Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book of the Year

A Horn Book Fanfare Book

A Cybils Award Finalist

"An affecting portrait of human ambition, folly and almost unbearable nobility in the face of death." — The Wall Street Journal

"A meticulous recounting of the disaster... Hopkinson's reporting is so rich with information that it will be equally fascinating to young readers and adults alike." — Los Angeles Times

* "Hopkinson knows precisely what's she doing in her coverage of the Titanic disaster... [A] fine book." — The Horn Book, starred review

* "Fascinating... A thorough and absorbing re-creation of the ill-fated voyage." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "Riveting." — Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "An absorbing and richly satisfying read." — School Library Journal, starred review

Praise for Up Before Daybreak:

* "Rarely have the links between northern industry, southern agriculture, slavery, war, child labor, and poverty been so skillfully distilled for this audience." — Booklist, starred review

* "Superb nonfiction writing." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "Excellent." — School Library Journal, starred review

Praise for Shutting Out the Sky:

A Jane Addams Peace Award Honor Book

An Orbis Pictus Honor Book

An ALA Notable Book

A Sydney Taylor Notable Book

* "Nonfiction at its best." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "[A] fascinating read." — School Library Journal, starred review

Praise for We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance:

* "Vital and unendurably timely." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "Inspiring and moving." — Booklist, starred review

Deborah Hopkinson
DEBORAH HOPKINSON is the author of more than 50 books for young readers including Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book; and Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale, an ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book, as well as the Little Golden Book biographies about Betty White and Dolly Parton. She lives near Portland, OR with her family and a menagerie of pets. Visit her at deborahhopkinson.com.

DAVE SZALAY is an illustrator, author, teacher, and graphic designer. He lives with his wife and three cats in Richfield, Ohio, near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Scholastic Focus
Publication date
April 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JNF025130 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | Military & Wars
Library of Congress categories
United States
World War, 1939-1945
Concentration camps
Prisoners and prisons, Japanese

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