A middle-grade novel by Mary Downing Hahn. Stepping on the Cracks follows families of young soldiers at home during World War II, particularly eleven year-old Margaret and her best friend Elizabeth, who both have older brothers fighting. They discover that their bully, Gordy Smith, is hiding his conscientious objector older brother Stuart, leading to an uneasy state of affairs that tests their belief in the war, and their ability to keep secrets.
This novel contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Mr. Smith is a drunk who beats his wife and children. after finding out Stuart is hiding int the area, he beats him so badly that he defend him in one ear, which keeps him from being sent overseas once the army gets him back.
- Actual Pacifist: Stuart, which is why he deserted rather than go over to fight.
- Big Brother Instinct: Donald Smith, for all of his bad reputation and flaws, he sent a letter home to his brothers describing how War Is Hell which contributed to Stuart's desertion. Gordy shows some little brother instinct in working to keep Stuart hidden and fed despite not quite understanding the reasons behind his desertion.
- The Bully: Gordy Smith. He and Stuart also have a Big Brother Bully in Donald, the oldest of the Smith children.
- Character Development: Almost everyone gets some.
- Cool Big Bro: Stuart to Gordy. Jimmy and Joe to Margaret and Elizabeth.
- Dirty Coward: The two safety patrols who refuse to report Gordy's bullying.
- Pom-Pom Girl: Barbara Brown is an adult, but was apparently this in High School, and was a good friend to Stuart, Jimmy and Joe.
- Someone to Remember Him By: Butch Brown, the school quarterback, who died in Italy, left behind a baby son he never got a chance to see.
- True Companions: Surprisingly, Gordy's two friends are this with him, helping him hide Stuart largely out of personal loyalty.