by Frances O'Roark Dowell Print book : Elementary and junior high school : Fiction  |  1st ed
Photography, Vietnam, Brother/ Sister Relationship   (2009-10-13)
Written about an army "brat" herself, Frances writes from the perspective of 12-year-old Jamie, who is intrigued by the thought of joining the army. A daughter of a Colonel, she and her brother play with little green Army men, until at age 17, he joins the real army and she hopes to learn about the real thing through him through letters she assumes he will send home to her.
This is the story of a young girl striving to impress the grown-ups in her life, and especially wanting to make a good impression on her father, the Colonel. She is no longer content to be merely loved as a little girl. She wants to make a good impression. By the end of the book, she believes she has accomplished this when she sees that her father went against protocol by not signing papers for Private Hollister to go to Vietnam. Why? Not just because Hollister's brother had been killed over there, but because his daughter asked him to not sent him to Vietnam. Jamie realizes then that her father does listen to her and respect her.
Jamie’s brother had only sent pictures of his life in the army, no letters, but eventually he includes pictures of the wounded, even some disturbing images, and in this way lets her in on the way it is with war. The disturbing pictures she doesn’t share with her parents. Her brother also included pictures of the moon, and she imagines him looking at the same moon, separated by distance. When her brother is "lost" in Vietnam, Jamie takes pictures of the moon every night he's gone. It adds up to 2 years. When he does come back, in a sweet moment, he says, You got all the ones I missed.
Ten-year-old Cindy adds interest to the story. She has a brother in Vietnam, also, so Jamie feels somewhat close to her, especially since her 2 best friends moved away. Cindy is different, and she knows she has a mental problem, but she speaks her mind and is bossy. She is simple, her mind is that of a first-grader, and she enjoys simple things, such as a birthday party, presents, and showing Jamie how she can dance. But she loves the pictures of the moon Jamie's brother has sent home, and for that, Jamie loves her. Jamie can be herself around Cindy and Cindy sees her as a hero. Too bad the name Cindy was chosen for this interesting character. I would have chosen a name that is whimsical and fun, even a little crazy, because that is what Cindy is.
The main interest this book had for me was the process of Jamie developing the rolls of film her brother sent home from war. He never sent her a letter, and never sent the film to his parents, leaving it up to Jaime what to share with them. He sent the film to her, even though he knew she didn't know a thing about developing film. The book described the process some, including how you can make detail stand out, so that the developer has some capability of making you see a picture a certain way. Jaime talks about the things in the background that show up, such as a bird in flight that you didn't notice when you took the shot. Not only were some of these details interesting to me since I enjoy taking pictures, but the fact that Jamie had to learn from scratch how to develop film. Learning something new is not my favorite thing to do, but I've had to do plenty of it. Developing the film her brother sent was the only way she could learn what he was experiencing, so she did it and she learned to enjoy it.
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