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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

The Fighting Ground by Avi has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

The year is 1778, and the Revolutionary War rages. Thirteen-year-old Jonathan hears a corporal is forming a militia to ambush a small group of enemy soldiers. His father can no longer fight because of a previous war injury, and Jonathan’s parents insist the boy stay far away from the battle. Desperate to fight, Jonathan goes to the meeting place anyway and says his father sent him. A man loans him a gun that’s much too heavy, and Jonathan sets off with the small militia. The corporal assures them there are only a handful of enemy soldiers.

Jonathan learns the other men don’t fully trust the corporal. He has a reputation for being overly fond of killing, and the number of enemy soldiers he forecasts seems to climb the farther they get from home. They march to a valley where they expect to fight. They discover their enemies are violent German mercenaries hired by the British, called Hessians. The Hessians fire upon the militia, and the corporal’s men scatter. Jonathan finds himself alone.

Three Hessians capture Jonathan shortly thereafter. Partly because of the language barrier, he has difficulty determining whether they are evil or decent men. They find an abandoned farmhouse with a cow mooing in agitation. As Jonathan milks the cow, he spots a young boy who won’t speak. He doesn’t mention the boy to the Hessians, until he realizes he can’t do anything for the child on his own.

Jonathan learns the boy’s parents are dead and helps dig graves for them. He begins to believe these same Hessians may have killed this couple. The Hessians, the boy and Jonathan sleep in the boy’s house. Jonathan is tied to one of the soldiers but slips out of the ropes while the soldiers sleep. He thinks about shooting them but ultimately decides to carry the boy to safety. He leaves his gun behind because he can’t carry both it and the boy.

Jonathan walks for a long while until he finds the corporal and the other remaining men. The corporal insists they finish off the three Hessians before they return home. When a French-speaking man talks to the young boy, the child replies easily. Jonathan learns his corporal is the one who killed the boy’s parents because he was convinced they were Tory spies.

The French-speaking man takes the boy home with him, and the corporal takes Jonathan and the other men back to the house where the Hessians are hiding. The corporal orders Jonathan to go inside to see if they’re still asleep. Jonathan is terrified but obeys orders. When he finds they’re still sleeping, he wakes one up to warn him about the American soldiers outside. The Hessians try to flee using Jonathan as a shield, and the corporal’s men kill the Germans.

Angry and overwhelmed by the events of the last 24 hours, Jonathan destroys the borrowed gun. He returns home, reunites with his father and feels grateful to be alive.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Jonathan’s father and mother try to keep him from going to war. The corporal has a reputation for being too eager to kill others, and the other men in the militia don’t entirely trust what he tells them. The Hessians don’t harm Jonathan while they have him in custody and even show hints of kindness. In the end, one Hessian uses Jonathan as a shield from the Americans’ gunfire.


The Lord’s name is used in vain a number of times, as is the word d--n. Jonathan watches his countrymen and Hessians get shot. He also helps bury the dead, decaying bodies of the French boy’s parents.



Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12








Record Label



HarperCollins, the edition reviewed was published in 2009


On Video

Year Published



Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 1985, and others


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