ELWOOD - In 1943, the small community of Elwood was plunged into World War II with the rest of the world.

Citizens scrambled to make due in the time of war bonds and rationing while keeping up jobs at local canning factories, witnessing the construction of a German prisoner of war camp and watching Elwood’s sons shipped off to war.

Local librarian Brenda Morgan Click recently published a novel about this turbulent time in American history, using Elwood as a main character.

“Gift of Peace” follows the daily life of Heddy, an 11-year-old Elwood girl trying to navigate life during wartime.

Click is a librarian serving Madison-Grant Junior High School, Park Elementary, Summitville Elementary and Liberty Elementary. After 10 years as a librarian, she has finally found herself on the other side of the text, as writer instead of reader.

She found inspiration for the novel from the childhood stories of her family members. “Some of the stories my mom told me and my aunts and uncles about being very poor and appreciating what they had. It was about family togetherness.”

Irene Morgan, Click’s mother, was raised in Elwood and sees many similarities between herself and Heddy. “Some of the things were things that happened to me in Elwood. My name wasn’t in the book but I knew it was something I had told her.”

The story opens with Heddy playing a war game with a neighborhood boy, Ritchie. She and Ritchie are at odds throughout the novel as Heddy explains, “I reckon we must have popped out of our moms’ wombs with fists raised against each other.”

Heddy soon watches her older sister leave to take a military job and is faced with sacrifices daily including buying war bonds instead of going to the local movie theater.

The novel explores 1940’s Elwood and historical landmarks including the site of the current Elwood High School where a German prisoner of war camp once stood.

Throughout the story, Heddy uses the Elwood Call-Leader newspaper to learn about the war being fought oceans away. “As much as I had always hated the newspaper when I was younger, I now was obsessed with it. I had to read the news, especially the war news,” Heddy admits.

Click says she began the novel two years ago, focusing most of her energy towards writing during breaks from school. “I wrote mostly during summer and Christmas break.”

In order to research wartime Elwood, Click used the Elwood Public Library’s microfilm archive, finding bits of news about the POW camp and other bits of Elwood history.

She used friends and family as inspiration for each character in the book. “There’s probably parts of a lot of people I know in the characters. I put them in characters a lot of times.”

Click decided to self-publish the book through Authorhouse because she wanted to give the book as a gift for her mother’s 75th birthday celebration. Morgan says she was not surprised when her daughter finally wrote a book. “For years, I’ve been telling her she should write children’s books.”

The gift was one Morgan will never forget. “I was thrilled. I cried when I read it.”

So far, few in Elwood know about Click’s accomplishment. She is working to stock the local libraries with copies of her book but says those who have read the novel, appreciate its observations about life in Elwood. “A lady in church came up to me and said she really liked it because she graduated in 1943 and she said, ‘I remember that.’”

Click is beginning work on her second novel. This time, she plans to focus on Frankton, her hometown. She will design her next novel around something she holds dear - teaching. “I started just a few pages. It will probably champion the old school-type teachers, the seasoned ones. I mean, ones who are experienced and got into teaching when what you actually did was teach and you didn’t have so much standardized testing.”

Click says she’ll probably self-publish her next novel instead of trying for a big publishing house. “I have a story to tell. I’m not in it for the money.”

Recommended for you