Army: Civilian to Soldier
In 2006 at the age of seventeen, Ian Fisher decided to forgo college and enlist in the U.S. Army. America had already been at war in Iraq for a few years. His dream was to learn to fight and defend his country in this distant Middle East nation. To do that, Ian was sent to basic combat training at Fort Benning, Georgia. One of five locations across America that train new Army recruits, this nine-week course involves intense physical training, hand-to-hand fighting skills, and weapons instruction. Using large, full-color photographs taken by U.S. Army soldiers, readers follow the training of Fisher, learning about the infamous bag drill, the importance of their battle buddy, and why drill sergeants are so important. Basic training is not the end of a soldier’s education, however. For Ian Fisher, that meant training for a special combat team and a tour in Iraq. Other Army jobs range from driving a tank to helping woundedsoldiers on the field and off. Part of a well-written five-book series about “Becoming a Soldier,” the authenticity of the text is supported by the efforts of consultant Fred Pushies, a U.S. SOF (Special Operations Force) Advisor. Educators will appreciate the controlled text of an average 85 words per two-page spread, written at a third-grade level, as well as the glossary, index and bibliography that makes for a good nonfiction title. Readers looking for an example of unique community helpers, and students with an interest in military careers and/or with parents in the military will be drawn to the narrative text and excellent photographs that describe a world not entirely unknown to them. 2011, Bearport Publishing Company, $22.61. Ages 6 to 12. Reviewer: Kris Sauer (Children’s Literature).
Joel Bloom spends his childhood trying to understand the troubling and confusing concept of war. As a young boy, he plays games reenacting battles fought by his World War II veteran father and uncle, but questions how a person or country decides to fight for a cause. This uncertainty continues as he grows up during the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. He knows that war will define his life just as it did for those in his father’s generation, but soon realizes that battle lines are far less clear when the war is his own. When his effort to avoid the draft as a Conscientious Objector fails, Joel must decide how to stand up for what he believes and come to grips with the consequences of doing so. Battle Fatigue follows the moving story of a boy who loves baseball and seeks what it means to be American in a time of drastic change. Filled with metaphor and, at times, heart-wrenching poignancy, the text reveals much about the complexity of war and social action. Although the first person narrative style may draw young people to Joel’s internal battles, teen readers might struggle to connect with the story’s occasionally heavy-handed reflections or Joel’s initially childlike voice expressing bewilderment at adult politics. Nonetheless, in following Joel’s journey from child to adult, readers can learn a great deal about the profound impact of war and how the battles, even if they are internal, can be life altering. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2011, Walker Books, 244p., $17.99. Ages 15 to 18. Reviewer: Meghann Meeusen (VOYA, August 2011 (Vol. 34, No. 3)).
One of titles in the “Bloodlines” series, this book presents the information in an engaging format that is part comic book, part novel, and part textbook. This series introduces readers to the life of a specific soldier in wartime–all members of the Donovan family tree–as they face the realistic conditions of war, including the deaths of fellow soldiers. This particular book launches readers into Captain Everett Donovan’s world as he wakes up on the edge of a mortar crater in North Korea during the Korean War. He is the lone survivor of a battle with no knowledge of what he had been through–and he is surrounded by bodies of fellow soldiers. Readers will immediately be thrown into the emotion of Donovan’s story as he heads back to the Toktong pass and the Marine Forward Observation Base. The subsequent chapters are thick with tension as Donovan gets shot and comes face to face with the Korean sniper. Donovan passes out from the pain and wakes up to see the sniper standing over him with a bloody bayonet. The sniper–who had removed the bullet–helps him escape after other Korean soldiers arrive. The book ends with the sniper learning that the path where he sent Donovan to escape is unfortunately laced with land mines. He hears the explosion and is himself arrested for having helped Donovan in a tragic case where nobody wins. Sherman successfully uses the emotion from this soldier’s personal story to bring the history behind it to life, providing a great springboard for young readers wanting to learn about the Korean War. 2011, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, $23.32 and $6.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Kip Wilson (Children’s Literature).
Celebrating Veterans Day
This nonfiction title explains why and how Americans celebrate Veterans Day. Part of the “Celebrating Holidays” series, the book traces the history of Veterans Day back to the conception of Armistice Day. It explains how and why the holiday expanded from a time to honor World War I vets to a day to honor all American veterans. The book includes information about the symbols associated with the holiday, including flags, poppies, and monuments. It shows how Americans celebrate the day on a national, local, and individual level. The book is divided into five short chapters, which can be read independently of each other. Sidebars, photographs, and captions provide additional information. The book includes a table of contents and an index. Back matter includes a craft page that encourages students to write a thank you note to veterans. A glossary and suggestions for further research are also included. The web sites suggested are more suited for teachers and parents than children, but offer many suggestions for celebrating the holiday at school and at home. The book would be a welcome addition to lessons focusing on Veterans Day. 2012, Enslow Elementary, $23.93. Ages 8 to 10. Reviewer: Lisa Colozza Cocca (Children’s Literature).
Dia de los veteranos
Holidays are days that we set aside to celebrate something special. Some holidays celebrate people, some remind us to be grateful, and some are days for reflection. Veterans Day is a day Americans spend in gratitude for the veterans who have served their country. Whether they served in the Marines, the Coast Guard, the Air Force, the Navy or the Army all veterans are honored. On Veteran’s Day the president visits the grave of an unknown soldier and honors all veterans by placing a wreath on the grave. This Spanish version of Veterans Day teaches children how and why certain holidays are celebrated. Readers will love seeing kids their age celebrating as they do, enjoying a special meal or watching a parade, and will learn that though we may celebrate different holidays we all celebrate in much the same way. This book is part of the “Holidays and Festivals” series which increases the reader’s awareness of the world around them by introducing them to a variety of celebrations from all cultures. 2011, Heinemann Library, Ages 4 to 7, $21.50. Reviewer: Mandy Cruz (Children’s Literature).
Girl is Murder
Iris Anderson’s father survived Pearl Harbor; he’s missing a leg, but his pride is fully intact. Refusing help from his brother, a private investigator like himself, he tries to revive his pre-warbusiness, but it’s hard to keep a low profile on New York stakeouts with a prosthetic leg. Fifteen-year-old Iris is more than willing to help, and she even manages to snap incriminating photos of a cheating wife for one of Pop’s cases, but he wants to keep her far from his often risky and sordid work. Iris, however, has the inside track on one particular case that involves a boy who has gone missing from her public high school, and without her father’s knowledge she is soon sneaking out to nightclubs, consulting with students from her former private school, and unearthing some increasingly damning evidence against girls she once considered good friends. Iris’ story has considerable crossover appeal, enticing both mystery lovers and historical fiction fans, with a cunningly devised plot and a cast of period-specific characters: World War II enlistees, zoot suiters, pregnant teens swept covertly out of town, and young women scamming soldiers on leave. Pop’s grudging respect for his daughter’s detective skills and an unresolved mystery in the Andersons’ own household hint that this could be a YA series in the making. But if it doesn’t materialize, older teens might want to look into Haines’ Rosie Winter adult mysteries. Review Code: R — Recommended. (c) Copyright 2006, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2011, Roaring Brook, 352p.; Reviewed from galleys, $16.99. Grades 6-10. Reviewer: Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, July/August 2011 (Vol. 64, No. 11)).
Imagine leaping out of a plane at twenty thousand feet. The cold air blows past your face as you plummet toward the ground. Suddenly, your parachute opens and your downward descent changes. As you near the ground you think about who may be near your landing space. You are an airborne soldier and those people on the ground may well mean to kill you. This brief description is typical of the subject covered in this volume of the illustrated “Special Forces” series. In this chapter, readers are treated to a look at the training, duties, and history of parachute troopers. As is the case with other books in this series, the author begins by touching on the history of the units in question. Then, he addresses topics such as basic and advanced training, personal qualities of effective airborne soldiers, duties, and potential assignments. Youngsters interested in pursuing a military career, or who are simply drawn to books dealing with martial subjects, will enjoy and learn from this one. 2011, Mason Crest Publishers, $22.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck (Children’s Literature).
As a brief introduction for youngsters about one of America’s most important national holidays, every sub-topic has its own chapter with actual photographs, key vocabulary in bold red and basic text in a large font. Concepts are explained using simple descriptions beginning with the significance of Veterans Day in honor of those who have served in the military. There is a small amount of U.S. History related to its origins as Armistice Day. For example, President Woodrow Wilson designated it to be celebrated for the first time on November 11, 1919 as World War I concluded. Not until 1938 did this holiday become official. However, in 1954 after World War II and the Korean War ended, the name was changed to Veterans Day. Other countries around the world commemorate veterans on Remembrance Day on or near November 11. France still has an Armistice Day since the word armistice means “the end of hostilities.” No matter when special holidays are officially celebrated, young children can investigate Passover, Easter, Ramadan, Juneteenth, and Saint Patrick’s Day in this friendly “Holidays” series. Colorful photos bring real life to the forefront in each engaging book. Handy sections at the end of books cover Interesting Facts, Important Words, Web Sites, and provide a nice Index. Extensions to other subjects and concepts are easily incorporated by related hands-on projects, additional reading, oral conversations, and assorted media. 2012, ABDO Publishing Company, $17.95. Ages 7 to 11. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed. (Children’s Literature).
The Vietnam War: From Da Nang to Saigon
The Vietnam War remains the longest foreign conflict in American history. Over more than a decade, American soldiers, sailors, and airmen were engaged in sometimes utterly confusing warfare with a foe they little understood. The Vietnam War cost over one million lives and spread into Cambodia and Laos. Vast forests were devastated, cities destroyed, and more bombs were dropped by American aircraft than were utilized in all of World War II. In the end, the massive power of the United States military was insufficient to defeat the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces that opposed them. Simultaneously, the war resulted in a large scale peace movement that spawned countless violent and non-violent protests. All these facts and more are presented in this illustrated history of the Vietnam War. Combining a thoughtful narrative with human interest anecdotes drawn from the war, this general history ends up being an effective teaching tool. Readers will come away with a much enhanced understanding of both the events that made up the Vietnam War and their outcomes. 2011, Enslow, $31.93. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck (Children’s Literature).
World War II in the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki
During World War II some of the most savage fighting occurred in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Following the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, combat spread across the vast expanses of the Pacific and surrounding Asian nations. The Pacific portion of World War II featured a no quarter approach that was far different than the combat occurring in Western Europe. Japanese soldiers typically fought to the death and offered extreme brutality toward their foes and conquered peoples. Kamikaze attacks from the air and Banzai charges were but two features of fighting the Japanese that fed the fuels of hatred on the part of America military men and women. In the end, the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki was but the final act in a war that offered no mercy on most occasions. In this illustrated history of the Pacific War, Stein traces the brutal events that made up the “island hopping” campaigns of this conflict. In telling this expansive story Stein applies great skill and a feel for the facts attendant to this enormous military theater. Stein is particularly good at weaving the thoughts and words of actual battlefield participants into a cohesive narrative. Further, Stein has a gift for descriptive language and uses it to help readers truly understand the brutality and effort that were part and parcel of the Pacific War. This approach results in a fine historical work and one that will capture the interest of its readers. 2011, Enslow, $31.93. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck (Children’s Literature).
Words in the Dust
Zulaikha hides her mouth behind her chador, or shawl, so that people will not see her cleft lip although everyone in her Afghan village knows. Some even call her Donkeyface. She wishes she were beautiful like her older sister, Zaynab. The arrival of an American soldier will change her looks and her life, but not before she discovers her own inner strength. Reedy creates a rich, multi-layered tale of current day Afghanistan. Zulaikha and her sister do not go to school; there is no need, they are told, for their lives will be spent taking care of their husbands, children, and home. Zulaikha, however, recalls lines of poetry and learning the letters of the alphabet from her educated mother who was murdered by the Taliban. When Meena, a friend of her mother, offers to help her learn to read, Zulaikha does so secretly. With no paper on which to write, she practices her letters in the dust on the ground. In the meantime, fifteen-year-old Zaynab is giddy with the knowledge that she is to be wed, even though her future husband is quite a bit older. These inseparable sisters dream of their fairy tale marriages. After her marriage, however, they hardly see one another. Zulaikha’s joy over her successful operation is destroyed by the news that her sister has been badly burned. Reedy, who served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, uses his experiences to create this story. The main characters are well developed and the minor characters add to the richness of the story. The beautiful, ancient poetry of the region is contrasted with the denial of education to half the region’s population. Reedy has done an excellent job of weaving in everyday life, words in Farsi, and the plight of women and girls. This is a story that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished. It is simultaneously heart-rending and uplifting. In the back of the book there is a pronunciation guide for the Farsi; an author’s note on how he came to write this story; information on the epic poem Shahnameh and the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha; and recommended reading for children, young adults, and adults. Katherine Paterson provides the introduction. 2011, Arthur A Levine Books/Scholastic, $16.99. Ages 9 to 14. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).
World’s Best Soldier
Millions of men and women serve in the various armed forces that are part of most nations’ domestic military services. However, a distinct minority of the world’s military service personnel are members of elite units. Here, in this volume of the illustrated “Special Forces” series, youngsters are given an opportunity to learn more about some of the world’s most proficient soldiers. Units such as the Russian Spetnaz, Britain’s SAS, Israeli commandos, and American Airborne regiments all serve different roles. Common threads that stretch across all of these storied units are their advanced training, intense preparation, commitment to excellence, and rigorous missions. In this volume of the fine series, readers will get to look behind the curtain and see some of the ways in which elite units are formed, maintained, and utilized. This is a fascinating story and one well told in this book. Adolescents interested in military themes will enjoy reading about these units, each of which encompasses some of the finest soldiers in the world. 2011, Mason Crest Publishers, $22.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck (Children’s Literature).