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The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Source: Public library
Hardcover, 391 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson is set five years or more after Hayley Kincaid’s father came back from two tours each in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They had been on the road as he drove semi-trucks and home-schooled her, but they return to his home town to set down some roots and for her to attend senior year in a regular school.  She barely reconnects with her childhood friend Gracie and she is plunged head first into peer-pressure drama as she tries to hide her own past and home life struggles.  She meets mega-hottie Finn, who has stopped being the star swimmer for the high school team, and they strike up an unconventional relationship of him doing her favors she never asks for in exchange for articles for the nearly defunct school newspaper.

“My earbuds were in, but I wasn’t playing music.  I needed to hear the world but didn’t want the world to know I was listening.” (page 5)

As much as this story is about Hayley and her ability to connect with people her own age, it is also a story about the wide-ranging effects of PTSD.  Anderson sprinkles in what look like memories from Hayley’s father, which provide enough background on his experiences to demonstrate how real his nightmares had become.  These nightmares are so real that she loses sleep herself, and like most children of addicted parents, she teeters on the edge of caring for him and allowing herself to live her own life without worrying about him.

“A few days after we moved in, Daddy got unstuck from time again, like the Pilgrim guy in Slaughterhouse.  The past took over.  All he heard were exploding IEDs and incoming mortar rounds; all he saw were body fragments, like an unattached leg still wearing its boot, and shards of shiny bones, sharp as spears.  All he tasted was blood.”  (page 9)

Trauma is tricky, and while many veterans never speak of their experiences, family can glean from their nightmares the events that continue to plague their living hours.  Anderson writes for young adults with a seriousness that ensures young readers will feel at home in the worlds she creates, but she never sugarcoats the realities of war or PTSD.  Hayley is strong, but still teeters on the edge when her father takes a wrong turn or stops coming out of his room.  The only thing keeping her in the present and connected are her relationships with Gracie and Finn.  The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson is highly emotional, could be considered a tearjerker, and will leave a lasting imprint on readers’ memories.

About the Author:

Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous American Library Association and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Chains also made the Carnegie Medal Shortlist in the United Kingdom.

Laurie was the proud recipient of the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature…”. She was also honored with the ALAN Award from the National Council of Teachers of English and the St. Katharine Drexel Award from the Catholic Librarian Association.

Also Reviewed:

14th book (Gulf Wars — Operation Iraqi Freedom) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford 1937-1947

Source: Gift (Published by Graywolf Press)
Hardcover, 128 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford 1937-1947 edited and introduced by Fred Marchant, which was our June book club selection, is a collection of mostly never before published poems by William Stafford while he worked with the Civilian Public Service (CPS) after becoming a conscientious objector of WWII.  While it is a collection of poems by a young poet working in camps on civil service projects who felt exiled within his own country for being a pacifist, these poems also represent a poet searching for his own voice and style.  There are variations in tone, punctuation, and capitalization, as well as a wide use of the em dash.

The Prisoner (page 26)

Touched the walls on every side again—
Obsessed with prowling thoughts of free live men.
He heard when guards had slammed the outer gates,
How suddenly like wool the silence waits.
Resigned, he sat and thought of all the dead.
"I'll soon wake up from life," the prisoner said.
                      c. Magnolia, Arkansas
                      [1942]

While Stafford was a conscientious objector, life in the camps was not easy going — it was hard work, and many might even characterize it as a punishment for those who objected to doing their soldierly duty.  While he seemed to know that he was a pacifist, he continued to struggle with what it meant to be a pacifist, and this struggle is evident in his poems.  Another running theme through the poems is a deep sense of loneliness, a being apart from the whole of society, and wondering how he fits into not just his pacifist society at the camps, but in the greater society outside of those camps.  In this internal struggle, Stafford writes about listening and observation and in many ways he takes these “passive” activities and makes them active inspection and cause for action.

From "Their voices were stilled..." (page 24)

Their voices were stilled across the land.
I sought them. I listened.
The only voices were war voices.
Where are the others? I asked, lonely
      in the lush desert.
One voice told me secretly:
We do not speak now, lest we be misunderstood.
We cannot speak without awaking the dragon of anger
      to more anger still.
That is why you are lonely.
You must learn stillness now.

I looked into his eyes, and they were a dragon's eyes,
      and I could not speak,
And we were as grains of sand huddled under the wind,
Awaiting to be molded, waiting to persuade with yielding
      the feet of the dragon.

                        Magnolia, Arkansas
                        May 1, 1942

Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford 1937-1947 edited and introduced by Fred Marchant explores the early writings of a national poetic icon, who stood behind his convictions even if it meant he was separated from society at large and required to work so hard it seemed like a punishment.  Stafford’s “deep listening,” as Marchant says, requires active participation on his part, he evokes pacifism in a way that will leave readers re-examining their own convictions where war is concerned.

***Disclosure, Fred Marchant is my former poetry professor from my Alma Mater.***

What the Book Club Thought:

The book club seemed to enjoy the poems, though there were a few members who found the poems in the end section rather odd compared to the others.  Once we got Skype going with the editor of the collected poems, several members were engaged in the conversation, poems were read aloud and discussed, and afterward, several said they would go back and re-read some of the poems now that they had more background on the poet and his experiences.  Having Fred Marchant join us engaged more of the members in conversation and reading of poems, and the background information seemed to help put the poems in perspective.  The poems were dated, so we could follow the historical time line, such as one poem written about the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  Members indicated they would be interested in another Skype session.

About the Editor:

Fred Marchant is an American poet, and Professor of English and Literature at Suffolk University. He is the director of both the Creative Writing program and The Poetry Center at Suffolk University. In 1970, he became one of the first officers of the US Marine Corps to be honorably discharged as a conscientious objectors in the Vietnam war.

38th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

21st book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

Book 19 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.

13th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

War Babies Read-a-Long

Today, at War Through the Generations, Anna and I are holding our first discussion for the Korean War read-a-long pick, War Babies by Frederick Busch.

We hope that you’ll join us in a discussion of this short book.  For this week, we’re focusing on pages 1-50.

Check out the discussion here.

Korean War Read-a-Long at War Through the Generations

As part of the War Through The Generations 2014 Reading Challenge with a Twist, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long for the Korean War.

In June, we’ll be reading War Babies by Frederick Busch.

Discussion questions will be posted on Friday for the designated sections.  As there are no chapter numbers, we’ll have to use approximate page numbers.

Given the small size of the book, we’ll only hold 2 discussions, instead of the usual 4.

Here’s the reading schedule and discussion dates:

  • Friday, June 13: Pgs. 1-50 (ends with “mine and squeezed.”
  • Friday, June 27: Pgs. 51-the end (begins with “We didn’t speak again”)

We hope you’ll be joining us next month for our Korean War read-a-long.

Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 208 pages
On Amazon, on Kobo

Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon is a character driven novel about the effects of not only the Second World War on Yohan’s father, but the Korean War on Yohan himself.  Yohan is a young farm hand who is conscripted into the military during the Korean War and he’s from the North; he’s captured after being nearly blown to smithereens and sent to a POW camp run by Americans.  Although Yohan could be considered brave because he defects, leaving his country behind, he’s also scared to connect with others because of the trauma he’s faced.  This quiet novel is about learning to reconnect with others and to accept the past and move on, while still holding close the memories of those you loved.

“That winter, during a rainfall, he arrived in Brazil.

He came by sea.  On the cargo ship he was their only passenger.  In the last days of the ship’s journey it had grown warm and when he remarked that there was no snow, the crew members laughed.”  (page 1)

Arriving in Brazil on a chance opportunity and knowing no Portuguese, Yohan is apprenticed to a Japanese tailor, Kiyoshi, who has his own war secrets.  What little Japanese Yohan knew is mostly forgotten, but they get by on those few words and gestures, as the young man begins to settle into a new life, mending clothes for the tailor’s customers and eventually learning the streets enough to make deliveries.  Yoon weaves memories into the narrative seamlessly, almost as if Yohan himself is pulled into the past and the present dissolves into the ether.  “It was as though the world he saw cracked, revealing memories he had forgotten.” (page 27)

As Yohan slowly adapts to a new life, he finds quiet solace in the company of youngsters Santi and Bai, who are patient as they sell their homemade bracelets or make small trades for food in the marketplace.  Yoon describes the physical limitations of those around Yohan, including his friend from the POW camp Peng, to reflect the disabled state in which Yohan has come to Brazil, and it is only through his relationship with the church groundskeeper, Peixe, that he comes to realize that limitations are only as limiting as you allow them to become.

Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon may search through the snow in Korea for anything they can forage to eat, but really it is a metaphor for those of us who live life in isolation either by choice, trauma, or necessity, and how as observers of our own lives and that of others, we are always hunting for that elusive connection.  Yohan and others must learn to make the fateful leap — to connect and to brave the uncharted waters.

About the Author:

Paul Yoon was born in New York City. He lives in Massachusetts and is the Roger F. Murray Chair in Creative Writing at Phillips Academy.

 

12th book (Korean War) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

 

 

 

 

17th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

27th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

I Am Regina by Sally M. Keehn

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 240 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

I Am Regina by Sally M. Keehn (on Kobo) is a book for ages 10+ set during the French & Indian War that re-imagines the story of young Regina Leininger, who was captured by Indians and lived with them during this time.  The protagonist in Keehn’s story, 10-year-old Regina, is taken from her home after her mother leaves to mill the corn before the winter comes.  She’s traumatized by the ordeal that takes the life of her father and one of her brothers.  Her sister, Barbara, is taken as well, but they are soon parted as the tribes divvy up their spoils.

“It must be November now.  My eleventh birthday has passed and I have had no time to mark it.  The cries of geese no longer fill the sky.  Frost coats the ground and ice skims the wide and shallow stream we have been following southward through this wooded valley.” (page 59)

Until the tribes take her, from her German immigrant family, and she is forced to carry a young girl with her through treacherous terrain, Regina has little struggle in her life, except for the chores assigned to her by her parents.  Her mother always considered her a wanderer and a dreamer, but for the most part, she had a settled life in the frontier.  The trek to the village with Tiger Claw, a man who has seen battle with the White man and bears the scars to prove it, nearly exhausts her, but she is still ill-prepared for the life she will lead among the Indians.  Tribe life is hard and the women do most of the chores, and Regina is forced to struggle with her own identity, her faith, and fitting in with this new “family.”

Keehn does a great job balancing more adult themes with a middle grade audience, without sugar-coating or glossing over the dangerous possibilities Regina must face as a white squaw maturing into womanhood.  The author also is never heavy-handed with her treatment of Regina’s faith, but instead demonstrates how it is a source of strength for the protagonist as she acclimates herself and finds her place.

Unlike Indian Captive, which is about another woman captured by tribes, the prose here is more accessible, possibly because of the first-person point of view used.  While Regina does not leave the village, she is still touched by the French and Indian War, and she is subject to the loss of trade when the French are defeated.  She finds solace in the young girl she carried all those miles and in her new friendship with Nonschetto, but the strength of I Am Regina by Sally M. Keehn is in the protagonist and her struggles with identity and what it is to be who we are and who are families are and become.

Check out the discussions Anna and I had at War Through the Generations.

About the Author:

Sally Keehn can remember her childhood days in Annapolis, Maryland – days spent reading, horseback riding, swimming, and exploring the woods surrounding her grandfather’s farm. Though she would bid Annapolis good-bye at the age of nineteen to embark on an English degree at Hood College, Keehn’s days of “exploring” were just beginning.

11th book (French and Indian War) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

 

 

 

 

 

15th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

24th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

Source: Bethany House and TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 432 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

 

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin is a WWII novel set in 1944 Czechoslovakia at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, a Jew work camp where many died from malnutrition, disease, or beatings, that acted as a stopgap for some Jews before reaching Auschwitz.  A miracle saves the life of Hadassah Benjamin from a Nazi firing squad, but the once blue-eyed, blonde finds herself in the middle of a hornet’s nest and forced to live under the assumed name of Stella Muller.  With her shorn locks, she ends up wearing a red wig and is given luxurious clothes, a warm bed, and food as SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt’s secretary.  With biblical quotes of Esther’s story, the parallels are unmistakeable between Stella’s struggles and that of Esther, with even Stella’s uncle bearing the same name as Esther’s cousin, Mordecai.  While the short quotes before each chapter are not strictly necessary to the story, it does offer some basis for the story Breslin is telling and for the strict moral grounds that Stella attempts to adhere to.  As a Jew who feels abandoned by God, it is interesting that she would turn to the bible and the tales a school friend of hers once told her, but her ability to connect with the bible demonstrates the transcendence that good morality can have no matter what religion, especially when she forces herself to break with Jewish traditions in order to remain concealed.

“Stella forced herself to look in the mirror.  Hadassah Benjamin, a Mischling, half Jew, bursting with a young woman’s exuberance, had ceased to exist.  In her place stood Stella Muller, subdued Austrian bookkeeper and suitable stock for the Third Reich.  A frail disguise comprised of no more than a scrap of official-looking paper, a red wig, and beneath her bruises the inherent fair features of a Dutch grandmother.”  (page 49-50)

Aric von Schmidt is the real enigma in this novel — a Nazi that does not hesitate to follow orders, but who still feels affection for Jews in his household.  He’s a man broken by WWI — literally, emotionally, and physically — and although he begins to see the devastation around him, of which he has played a significant part, it is hard for him to reconnect with his humanity without seeing how it would hamper his duties and possibly result in his own death or punishment.  Although he softens with Stella’s guidance, he’s still torn inside as he struggles to balance what he knows is right and what his orders are under the government he serves.

As the war nears its end and the final solution is called for by the Reich, the pressure is on for Stella, her uncle, and young boy named Joseph.  Breslin has crafted a poignant novel about the end of a war that had everyone concerned about their own safety, even the Nazi officers carrying out horrific orders.  She manages to humanize some of these monsters, and while we are not expected to completely forgive these men, it is clear that their decisions were based on their own demons and inabilities to sacrifice themselves for the good of others — a strength that few can muster in times of crisis when saving their own skin is a viable option.  For Such a Time by Kate Breslin is a stunning debut and would make a great book club selection given the moral issues and the emotional impact of the decisions these characters face.

About the Author:

A Florida girl who migrated to the Pacific Northwest, Kate Breslin was a bookseller for many years. Author of several travel articles, award-winning poet, and RWA Golden Heart finalist, Kate now writes inspiring stories about the healing power of God’s love. For Such a Time is her first book. She lives with her husband and cat in Seattle, WA.

Connect with Kate on her website and on Facebook.

10th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

 

 

 

 

8th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; It is set in Czechoslovakia.

 

 

 

 

 

13th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

21st book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon

Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins
Hardcover, 368 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon melds the island tranquility of Greece’s Erikousa with the Greek Gods and Goddesses and whispering of the Cypress, creating a modern-day mythology.  Daphne is a modern woman, her heart heavy with the loss of her first husband and her struggles as a single mother rising to the top in New York City’s restaurant scene.  She comes back to her island home to have a traditional Greek wedding, despite her fiance Stephen’s misgivings about constrained traditions, and to reconnect with her Yia-yia (grandmother).

“In hushed, reverent tones, Yia-yia insisted that the cypresses had their own secret language that traveled between the trees on the gentle morning breeze and quieted down again as the afternoon stillness set in.”  (page 4-5 ARC)

The juxtaposition between Daphne’s American life of being always on the go and struggling to make time even for her daughter is clear once she returns to the island.  It is not that as a child life was so much more care-free (though it was), but life on the island is slower and more connected to family and tradition than it is in the business world and career-focused life Daphne was building for herself.  Evie, her daughter, was named for her great-grandmother, but she’s never met her or been to the island until now.  Corporon’s focus on Daphne brings together the family story as it shifts between her childhood, her time in America, and the present time with the wedding planning.  Tensions are increased as a mysterious man, Yianni, begins making assumptions about her and seems too close to her grandmother.  A WWII mystery is revealed and Daphne sees the error of her judgments and realizes that she may have more in common with this mystery man than she first expected.

When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon has it all — well-drawn characters, mythology and tradition, love and loss, and the power of family.  An emotional, heartfelt novel about the traditions and cultures that make us who we are and the dangers of committing halfway or only looking at the surface.

Photo credit Dia Dipasupil

About the Author:

Yvette Manessis Corporon is an Emmy Award-winning writer, producer, and author. She is currently a senior producer with the syndicated entertainment news show Extra. In addition to her Emmy Award, Yvette has received a Silurian Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the New York City Comptroller and City Council’s Award for Greek Heritage and Culture. She is married to award-winning photojournalist David Corporon. They have two children and live in New York.

Find out more about Yvette at her website, follow her on Twitter, and connect with her on Facebook.

 

 

7th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; It is set in Greece.

 

 

 

20th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

 

 

 

12th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

9th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

 

 

Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 272 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski is based on the true story of Mary Jemison who was captured as a young 12- or 15-year-old girl in Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War and traveled a great distance from the Ohio River Valley to upper New York to live with the Seneca Indian tribe.  The beginning of the novel outlines the facts that are included in the novel, particularly that the entire Jemison family was captured by Indians in 1758 and that only the two eldest brothers escaped capture and Mary was traded to live with the Seneca Indians.

“Then she saw that with the Indians there were white men, dressed in blue cloth with lace ruffles at their sleeves, speaking French in hurried tones.  She counted.  There were six Indians and four Frenchmen.  Were the Frenchmen wicked, too, like the Indians?” (page 19)

While there is foreshadowing about what happens to Mary — known as Molly to family and friends — the technique is not heavy-handed, though there are moments of repetition that she is the only white girl in the Indian village.  Lenski balances the negativity of life with the white man and Indians, careful not to take sides.  The battles between the French and English across the American wilderness sweep up not only the Native Americans, but also the pioneer and frontier families seeking to build lives for themselves.  Molly learns to fit in with her new family, but always she longs for her true family.  She spends many of her early days crying alone in the woods when she’s sent to fetch water, and its easy to see how devastating this new life could be for a child.

“She was living in two places at once, her body with the Indians, but her spirit where she wanted to be — at home with the white people.” (page 160-1)

The Native Americans expect her to work and adapt to their way of life, and some are more harsh toward her failings and her desire to return to the pale-faces at Fort Duquesne or return to the Englishman that arrive seeking the Iroquois help in their battles with the French.  Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski is a good introduction for those ages eight to 12 to the French and Indian war and to the Native American way of life at a transitional period in history.

About the Author:

Lois Lenski was a popular and prolific writer of children’s and young adult fiction. One of her projects was a collection of regional novels about children across the United States.

 

10th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

8th book (French and Indian War) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

 

 

 

14th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

Sign-Up for the April 2014 War Through the Generations Read-a-Long

Next month at War Through the Generations, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long of I Am Regina by Sally M. Keehn for the French and Indian War.

Given the short nature of the young adult novel, we’ll be breaking it into just 2 discussions.  Here are the discussion post dates:

  • Friday, April 11: Chapters 1-13
  • Friday, April 25: Chapters 14-end (including afterword)

We hope that you’ll be able to join us!

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

Source: Random House and TLC Book Tours
Hardcover, 256 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

 

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith is a fresh short-story collection that spans the Vietnamese culture, myths, and the immigrant experience, straddling reality and the magical.  The Vietnam War hovers in the background of the characters’ lives as the mothers struggle to garner U.S. visas for themselves and their children born of American soldiers in “Guests” or in “Boat Story,” where a grandson asks his grandmother to explain her escape from Vietnam during the war.  Kupersmith’s style is clear and engaging, and the myths and magical moments are told in a storytelling style that is reminiscent of the oral traditions in Vietnamese culture.

“Whatever spirit had reanimated the corpse must have been a feeble one, for the body moved clumsily, legs stiff but head dangling loose as it struggled to keep its balance on the angry waves.  Grandpa sank down to his knees next to me, and we peered over the gunwale in helpless horror as the body tottered closer and closer.” (Page 8 ARC)

From ghosts in the Frangipani Hotel to the spirits in the woods, Kupersmith weaves in magic and myth seamlessly with reality. Her characters are oddities and not; they are rational but also open-minded about the unseen.  From the twin girls who border on feral to the young man who finds a ghost in the hotel, her characters are both real and unreal — they have a mystical quality.  The prose is witty, with a few moments that will leave readers chuckling.  At other times, the stories tackle serious issues like immigration and the soldiers who leave women behind with babies when the war is over, though with a sense of irony that never feels misplaced.

She can lull readers into a sense of complacency before her prose unsettles their world, and the mark of a great storyteller is one that can shift from male and female points of view with ease and who can create stories that will stay with readers long after they’ve been read.  The stories in The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith shift in setting and time, but the roots do not change, merely grow and curl as the tales unfold.

***U.S. residents can enter to win 1 copy of Violet Kupersmith’s The Frangipani Hotel by leaving a comment by March 10, 2014, 11:59 PM EST.***

About the Author:

Violet Kupersmith was born in rural Pennsylvania in 1989 and grew up outside of Philadelphia. Her father is American and her mother is a former boat refugee from Vietnam. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College she received a yearlong Fulbright Fellowship to teach and research in the Mekong Delta. She is currently at work on her first novel.

7th book (Vietnam War) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

 

 

6th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

10th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 282 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers is for readers age 12 and up given the subject matter, though there is less gruesome violence in this book than in other war books.  Robin “Birdy” Perry is a new recruit to the Civilian Affairs Battalion from Harlem who finds himself confused as to who the enemy is in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  His division’s mission is to secure and stabilize the country, providing medical attention and supplies whenever they can.  The confusion begins when civilians begin shooting at them and planting IEDs that blow up their convoys and other Iraqis in the streets.

“I looked to where she was nodding and saw the sun on the horizon and above it a thin red line that stretched endlessly in the distance.  There was also sand, rising like a shadow with shifting shades of dark brown and orange, coming toward us.  Cameras were brought out and guys stepped away from the trucks to get clear pictures.” (page 45)

Birdy’s got a crush on Marla, and he’s fast friends with Jonesy, who wants to own a Blues club when he gets out of the military.  Told in first person point of view, readers are limited to what they know about the war until Birdy becomes aware.  Unlike hand-to-hand combat or even WWI and WWII, the war in Iraq is more impersonal, as the enemy is often obscured by the lack of knowledge Americans had about the factions in the country or the bombs they detonate without being in close proximity.

Myers’ characters are a bit stereotyped in this novel, with the macho tough girl, Marla, and the laid back Jonesy.  And there are moments when Birdy’s reading the newspapers to get information about the war, which seems incongruous with the availability of the Internet and television in the Green Zone, where he spends most of his time.  Much of the story centers on Birdy’s fears about being in combat and worrying whether he’s good enough to be a soldier.  Once he becomes a little more comfortable in his skin, he worries about whether he’s doing a good job or accomplishing the mission — but then the team is ambushed or bombed and the fear becomes real.

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers is a good introduction for young readers to the realities of war without being overly gruesome.  Myers examines the camaraderie between soldiers, the mixed up feelings that war stirs up, and confusion of war in the modern world.

About the Author:

Walter Dean Myers is an African-American writer of children’s books best known for young adult literature. He has written over fifty books including picture books and nonfiction.

6th book (Gulf Wars — Operation Iraqi Freedom) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

 

 

 

5th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.