Adapted for the YA market from his adult book, The Guns at Last Light (2014), D-Day covers the planning and implementation of the Allied forces landing on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944, which became a turning point in the Second World War.
Told mainly from the American perspective, Atkinson shows the reader what a huge undertaking this was, with lots of details: “For OVERLORD, the U. S. Army had accumulated 301,000 vehicles, 1800 train locomotives, 20,000 railcars, 2.6 million small arms, 2,700 artillery pieces, 300,00 telephone poles and 7 million tons of gasoline, oil and lubricants.” And the reader also gets a good feel for how makeshift some of this was too. There is a very satisfying amount of front matter to set the context, including a World War II timeline and key players, and in the back there are even more lists, charts and added interesting snippets of information, such as “The five greatest tanks of the war” which would slow the story down, but are worth putting in. My only grumble is that the map – essential! – is hidden away on pages 56-57.
Though the reader may know the outcome, this is still an exciting tale, thrillingly told. Clearly many primary sources were consulted, and Atkinson manages to keep the balance between making the story come alive with personal accounts, and keeping a larger, more impersonal picture. He doesn’t shy away from the awful blunders that were made, resulting in many unnecessary deaths, but nor does he dwell on them; and he does highlight the adaptability of the troops when faced with unexpected turns of events
However, though there is a bibliography there are absolutely no notes, so when Atkinson reports all of the conversations and briefings involving Eisenhower, Churchill et al, there is nothing to tell me where this information came from. And are the “leathery stevedores” calling out to the troops “Have a good go at it, mates!”, some atmosphere that he has conjured up, or did somebody record this? Neal Bascomb’s The Nazi Hunters was a similar rewrite for the youth market, and he managed to note all his references, and it’s a signature move of Steve Sheinkin, so I felt this was a bit lacking.
Nonetheless there are plenty of good sources given at the end, and there is a lot of information stuffed into a compact and gripping narrative, making it ideal for middle schoolers and even some high schoolers, to read for either enjoyment or research.