Saturday, October 15, 2011
SHOOTING THE MOON by Frances O'Roark Dowell
I'm not sure how I missed this one. Frances O'Roark Dowell's CHICKEN BOY is one of my favorite middle grade books. Her more recent books include THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF GIRLS and THE KIND OF FRIENDS WE USED TO BE. When one of my students asked if Dowell had written anything else, I discovered SHOOTING THE MOON.
Twelve year old Jamie is missing her brother. Raised in a military family, the two grew up admiring their father the Colonel and playing war games. When TJ enlisted, Jamie dreamed of going with him to Vietnam. In fact, she was a bit jealous that he would be in the middle of all the action they used to imagine in their childish games.
When TJ's first letter from the combat zone arrived, it came with a package addressed to Jamie. The Colonel opened the padded envelope and out tumbled a roll of film. TJ's instructions to Jamie are to develop the film for him.
With the help of another soldier at the base rec center, Jamie learns how to mix the chemicals, develop the negatives, and create prints of her brother's black and white images of the war in Vietnam. The stark photos combine with the letters TJ writes to give Jamie an idea of what war really means.
As Jamie waits for her brother's return, she spends countless hours in the darkroom, plays competitive games of gin rummy with a soldier at the rec center, and confides in a neighborhood friend whose brother is also in Vietnam.
Although set in a time of history today's youngsters know little about, the feelings and emotions in SHOOTING THE MOON will touch a familiar cord as today's families suffer similar situations with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.