About the Authors
About the Authors: Akila and Audrey Coulombis split their time between New York and Florida. Avila grew up in Greece during World War II. His true life story is the basis for the book, "War Games". The idea for the book came from the frequent stories Akila used to tell from his childhood. Audrey is credited with receiving the Newberry Honor for her children's books. The couple have two children together.
What's the Plot
Petros and his family move back to Greece from America after the stock market crash leaves them without money. Then during World War II, the German army invades Greece and Petros must hide that he has anything to do with America to protect his family. To make matters more interesting, because his father owns one of the largest farms in the town, the German commander stays in his home. Petros and his friends mature during the war as they go from playing silly boyhood games to playing games in order to help the resistance effort of the war and help free Greece from the Germans.
Petros is the main character in the book. He is 12 years old and the younger brother. He loves animals and wants to be seen as an equal by his older brother. He is a quick thinker who wants to feel needed during the war. He seeks the approval of his brother and wants to be seen as courageous.
Zola is the older brother of Petros. At 15 he is as tall as most men and must be extra careful to not be seen by the Germans as a soldier. As a result he is often overlooked by Papa to do some of the more dangerous tasks in favor of Petros whom the Germans will not suspect. This makes Zola very jealous as he is very proud and wants to be seen as a man by his father. Zola at the beginning believes himself to be more mature than Petros but by the end of the story the boys have become friends and view each other as equals.
In the Spring of 1941, the German army invaded Greece after the Italian occupation. The occupation lasted until 1944. The Greeks had one of the most successful oppositions in Europe even though the economy was ruined and their way of life was severely disrupted. The invasion led to a great famine and the deportation of many Jews. During the three year occupation there was never a time that Greece did not try to fight back.
This is very similar to what we are seeing today in Ukraine. Russian troops have advanced into Eastern Ukraine under the pretext that the people there prefer to be a part of Russia and are really Russian. The people of Ukraine have learned from history in the past and realize that if they let Russia annex this small part of Ukraine, they will want more and continue to invade further into their country. As a result, the resistance movement in the Ukraine is very strong. The people there are fighting very hard to keep their country free.
The Greek Flag is a major symbol throughout the book. Before the Germans invaded, the boys had been involved in a school play where they received a Greek flag. When it was time to burn all of their possessions that could possibly get them in trouble with the Germans, Zola hid his prized flag. When Petros found the flag, he could have torn it up but he chose to protect it. After their friend Stravos is shot, Petros uses the flag to make a kite for him. The book ends with Stravos defiantly flying the kite and the Germans not able to find the kite. The Greek flag symbolizes their fighting spirit for independence. In the face of the advancing German army, they refuse to give in without fighting for Greek Independence.
But Zola had already made Petros feel he should be more of a man. Even Mama, well-meaning she was, made him feel childish. p. 49 The problem of being the younger brother was the older brother. (Couloumbis 57).
As they are preparing for the German army to arrive, they must hide or burn anything that would tip off the Germans that they have ties to America. Petros finds his teddy bear that he has slept with every day since he was born. Papa tells him he must get rid of it. Mama offers to let him hide the bear instead of burning it. We have grown so used to being able to be proud to be an American that it must have been very difficult to know that you have to hide or burn all of your valuable possessions to save your life. Survival mode puts a different priority on the material things of life.
The division of big brother/ little brother always made Petros unhappy. Perhaps it even made Zola unhappy. Now and again Petros wanted to do things differently. (Couloumbis 133).
With the commander living in their house, they are forced to be on their toes at all times. Petros realizes as long as the war continues their old way of life may not return. He becomes weary of all of the fighting. He for the first time begins to seek to have a relationship with his brother and values his friendship more than being right. In our world today there is a lot of fighting going on and a lot of people who have been displaced from their homes. They must wonder if they will ever get back to their old way of life and see their home and neighbors again.
Petros could hardly breathe. Zola wasn’t talking to him as the big brother talking to a little one. He was speaking simply as one brother to another. (Couloumbis 215).
At the very end of the story, the Greek flag that Petros had hidden from Zola is made into a kite. When Stavros is shot and believed dead, he must escape to the mountains to hide. Petros and Zola agree that Stavros should have the prized kite. As a result they have a man to man conversation and agree to this selfless act. This selfless act shows how much they have matured throughout the war. They have learned to become friends and learned what is really important. The brothers grin at each other as they hear that the kite they gave Stavros has been seen in the mountains and every time the Germans try to find the kite they can not find it. They feel like they have together taken part in the resistance and learned what it means to be young men. When I think about this being a true story and I think of all of the experiences the brothers had to go through, it makes me very thankful that in my childhood I have never had to face the difficult situations that they went through.
In "War Games", the boys loss of innocence is the central theme of this book. The boys are typical brothers fighting over petty differences. Old Mario, the farmhand, tells their father that "the boys must see what it is to be at war". (Couloumbis 33). Throughout the war they become more aware of that the "Germans are playing to win" (Couloumbis 70). They are able to put their differences aside and focus on doing their part to help Greece win back its independence.
Given the circumstances going on in our world today I do not believe we have learned from history. Just as Hitler was once attempting to build up his army and take over territory without any intervention from the West to stop him, so today we have powers such as ISIS, Iran, and Russia who are attempting to build armies and weapons and take over territory. If we do not stop these forces soon, we will have another generation of young boys that will see what it is to be at war.