86 pages • 2 hours read
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Allies is a novel by American author Alan Gratz that was originally published in 2019. It belongs to the genre of young adult historical fiction and is set during World War II. Gratz is the author of 17 novels for children/young adults as of 2021 and has won awards from Random House Books and the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. His novel Refugee won the National Jewish Book Award and the Young Hoosier Book Award.
This study guide refers to the Scholastic Press edition.
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Allies follows six adolescent/teenage characters as they take part in the historic events of “D-Day”—June 6, 1944, the first day of the Ally forces invading German-occupied France. The book’s protagonist is Dee Carpenter, an American soldier from Philadelphia. Dee is harboring a secret from his fellow soldiers: He was born in Germany and is still a German citizen. Dee’s parents brought him to America after the Nazis captured his uncle. Dee has conflicting feelings about his heritage and worries about what his friends will think about him if they discover he’s German.
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Samira Zadine is an 11-year-old Algerian immigrant who came to France with her parents. She helps her mother deliver a message about the upcoming invasion to the French resistance fighters who are trying to sabotage the Nazis. After the Nazis capture her mother, Samira helps the resistance fighters derail a Nazi train.
James McKay is a 19-year-old Canadian paratrooper whose unit lands off-target from their destination. He and his fellow troops improvise an attack on a compound of buildings being held by the Nazis, and he distinguishes himself in the effort. James encounters French citizens whom the Nazis have been holding, which motivates him to continue on with his efforts in the war.
Bill Richards is a 19-year-old British tank driver who is intent on getting to the French city of Amiens to add his name beside his father’s, who served in the city in World War I. Bill is also enamored with the idea of seeing the Bayeux tapestry in the city of Bayeux, which depicts his namesake, William the Conqueror, invading England from Normandy in 1066. Bill meets Dee when Dee’s unit takes shelter underneath Bill’s tank. However, Bill is tragically killed when the tank explodes, and Dee mourns his death. The chaos and unexpected obstacles the Allies encounter when they begin the invasion make Dee despair of their efforts succeeding, and he wonders whether he will survive the day. However, he pushes on with his fellow soldiers, and they eventually are able to leave the beach where they landed. Dee has a revelation about his underlying loyalty to America, and he is determined to become a US citizen if he survives the war.
Henry Allen is a 20-year-old Black American medic. He has experienced discrimination because of his race throughout his service in the army, but he maintains a caring and friendly demeanor to everyone he encounters. He helps many wounded soldiers, including Dee’s friend Sid.
Dee and Sid push on inland with their fellow soldiers, where German forces ambush them in a village. After defeating the Germans, the two rescue French civilians whom the Nazis have trapped inside a burning church. Dee has been forced to reveal to Sid that he is German, and Sid seems angry at him. Sid stays behind with the captured Nazis as the rest of the soldiers move on, and Dee feels certain his friend will execute the prisoners as revenge for the atrocities they’ve committed. Dee is brought down by a bullet as he tries to leave the village.
As the battle on the Normandy beaches dies down, Monique Marchand, a 13-year-old French resident who lives near the site of the battle, emerges from a beach hut where she’s been hiding all day. A competent amateur nurse, Monique, meets a female reporter disguised as a medic, Dorothy Powell. The two treat wounded soldiers until they’re discovered. They hitch a ride toward Bayeux and see the unconscious Dee in a field. They retrieve him, treat his wounds, and take him to Bayeux, where all the surviving characters converge at the end of the book. Although he is wounded too badly to continue serving, Dee receives medical help in Bayeux and reconciles with Sid, who instead of being angry with Dee was influenced by him to let the Nazi prisoners live. Dee is inspired by the sacrifice and unity he has observed during the memorable day of action.
Allies explores themes of identity, belonging, sacrifice, discrimination, and solidarity.
By Alan Gratz