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The turbulent 60’s

7 Nov

How much can a six year old understand her father’s deployment? In 1968, Suzanne Collins’ father was sent to Viet Nam. Her new picture book,  Year of the Jungle, gives us some insight.

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Young Suzy’s understanding expands throughout the year. Beginning with a view of the jungle based on her experience  of a Saturday morning cartoon (I’m pretty sure she watched George of the Jungle) we see her excitement over the postcards her dad sends and her understanding of the temporary shifts in her family dynamic with her father away. Then, fewer postcards arrive and there is a long silence.We are with Suzy  the evening she first sees the war on the evening news on a TV set someone forgot to shut off. We watch the understanding dawn  and feel the pain  and worry that comes with realization of where her dad is and what he is most likely doing.

This sis a serious book and the cartoon-like illustrations by James Proimos are perfect and a little reminiscent of  George of the Jungle.  Here’s one from the book:

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Here’s one from the 60’s cartoon:

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On a more dystopian note, Todd Strasser’s Fallout imagines a world in which the Cuban Missile Crisis ended with nuclear war.

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In alternating chapters, we see the neighbors scoff, as the narrator’s dad builds a bomb shelter to hold his family and what life is like when they are actually living in it. At first, this style irritated me, but then, I realized that it really helps understand the characters and how they behave in the shelter. In the middle of the night in late October, when the unthinkable happens, those same neighbors force their way into the shelter before Scott’s dad can shut the door. With not enough room, not enough food, and not enough air, life inside the shelter is filthy, physically draining, and emotionally fraught. I was slow to warm to the book, but was glad I didn’t give up on it.

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