Tuesday, July 5, 2011

PHANTOMS IN THE SNOW by Kathleen Benner Duble

Texas is home to Noah Garrett.  He's fifteen years old and used to living among the tall grass and the heat.  When his parents suddenly dead of smallpox, he finds himself in the temporary care of the local minister.  After arrangements are made, Noah boards a train and heads for the mountains of Colorado.

Noah's uncle has offered to take the boy in, but Shelly James's home is not exactly what Noah expects.  Officer James aka Uncle Shelly lives at Camp Hale, a military base high in the Rocky Mountains.  Noah is about to begin living the life of a Phantom.  He's never even heard of these skiing soldiers, but he's about to learn the hard way. 

Noah quickly regrets his little white lie leading his uncle and camp's commanding officer to believe he is already sixteen.  That's the legal age allowing boys to enlist so it is assumed that Noah is agreeable to becoming a Phantom.  His training begins. 

He has never seen a snow ski in his entire life.  Now he is told to bundle up, strap the awkward boards on his feet, and hit the slopes.  After one day of training, he drops into his bunk like a rock.  Even though he is used to hard work on the farm, every part of him aches.  When he overhears his uncle and the general talking, he realizes the torture has just begun.

Despite being raised a pacifist, Noah soon becomes part of this group of soldiers.  He learns to ski quickly and excels at climbing and rappelling as well.  He also finds himself becoming attached to the gruff, unemotional man that is his uncle.  For Noah, the all too real possibility of fighting Germans in Europe remains in the distant future.

PHANTOMS IN THE SNOW by Kathleen Benner Duble is an excellent novel about a little known group of soldiers in World War II.  Duble deftly relates the story of these fighting men and how Noah becomes one of them.  This book has wide appeal, but is sure to be successful with those interested in war stories or historical fiction.  I already know who I'm going to offer it to first.

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