Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Year of the Jungle

Year of the Jungle
by Suzanne Collins, illustrated by James Proimos
Scholastic, 2013. Unpaged.  Picture Book

     We know that Suzanne Collins is the off-the-charts successful author of The Hunger Games series, but in this picture book/biography, we learn also that her father was deployed to Viet Nam in 1968 when she was just starting First Grade. Suzy's interest in her father's life--in the jungle, with jungle animals, is clouded as well with worry.  On Halloween a worried-looking lady tells her that her father will be just fine, and then gives her way too much candy. At first her father sends postcards regularly; then, rarely. Newsreel footage of Viet Nam comes on the TV, and Suzy's mother runs to turn it off, but not before Suzy sees helicopters, explosions, guns, and soldiers lying on the ground. Suzy's father does come home, but he is not exactly the same as when he left.  Still, he reads Suzy her favorite poem about Custard the Dragon, "who always feels afraid [but] is really the bravest of all." So much goes on in this deceptively simple picture book--how a child feels whose father is at war; what happens to the father; the mother's difficulty standing between her children and their father's potential death.  Beautifully well done, and touching.

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