Reviewed by Mrs. Kristin Bernacchi
Live through World War II on a submarine through the eyes of a 15 year old sailor. The author, Mary Cummings offers a unique story about family, friendship, war and surviving in a book geared towards teenagers. I found myself quite involved in the story relating it to today’s sailors and how traditions carry on.
And the Baker’s Boy Went to Sea offers a chance to read about World War II and life on a submarine. I enjoyed the characters and how they intertwined their traditions and cultures into each others, the day to day life on a submarine and the dangers and acts of courage our submariners lived through during World War II.
The story begins with a 15 year old boy looking for a way out of a miserable home life. Owen wants to join the Navy but at age 15 he knows it isn’t possible. His friend helps him obtain a fake birth certificate to prove he is 17 and the story takes off.
Once accepted into the Navy he is assigned to a submarine, the newly commissioned USS MAKO. They suspect he is young but never question it in depth, the demand for sailors is too great. He is assigned to the galley, in charge of baking. All the characters learn through every experience that they must work together to make the boat successful, from the Captain down to the baker.
As he befriends many on the boat he becomes one of the guys. There is a lot of mentoring for the young sailor and he is very eager to learn. Owen is often given the chance to take on new responsibilities, he studies every chance he gets and is excited to be a part of the crew.
The descriptions of the battles between the Japanese and the submarines are quite intense. You can sense how scared they were yet showing bravery as every second passes, as every depth charge comes closer or hopes for the sound to be further away, a sigh of relief is heard.
The reality of the dangers of being a submariner are brought to life on these pages. The new experiences they had to be ready for at all times are endless. Being unable to surface for weeks at a time, the hot unbearable conditions and anxious moments to stay undetected reminds us how important submarines were during the war.
The story comes to it’s peak as depth charges are being dropped on MAKO and the crew is prepared to die rather than be captured. Men willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country becomes very real. Our 15 year old sailor grows up in a hurry and never regrets his choice, he has become an American hero.
Being a submariner is built on tradition and Mary Cummings is able to bring the past and the present together. I could appreciate the story and the facts provided to explain certain situations and terminology. The descriptions of duty sections, steps to getting qualified, the importance of receiving one’s fish, eternal patrol, what a wolfPack is and many other submarine terms help the young reader understand life aboard a submarine.
I would recommend this book as a gift to teens and tweens of submarine families to give them an idea of what their relatives, past and present, did and continue to do onboard submarines. It is an interesting read and a chance to learn about the day to day operations on a submarine during World War II and a unique opportunity to learn the secret language belonging to submariners.