Author: Frances O'Roark Dowell
Lexile Score: n/a
Genre: realistic/ historical fiction
Maturity level: 4th/5th grade - nothing too mature here, some understanding of the Vietnam war would perhaps heighten the understanding?
Pages: 176 Chapters: 15 Average Chapter Length: 12 pages
Theme: war, family, photography, how people change, the symbol of the moon
Project ideas: Moon photography (and/or actual film development vs. digital photography); study of Vietnam; Gin Rummy
First Line: The day after my brother left for Vietnam, me and Private Hollister played thirty-seven hands of gin rummy, and I won twenty-one.
Main Character: Jamie Dexter, and to a lesser degree her absent-but-present-through-photographs brother; also her friend Hollister
Review in 25 words or less: Simple, brilliant story powerfully and precisely told.
On the recommendation of Fuse #8, I ordered a copy of this small, unpretentious book and had a read-through. It is wonderful!
Jamie Dexter is a military brat whose father is a colonel and whose brother has enlisted to be sent to Vietnam. As the story progresses Jamie, who has been pro-war and battle-ready her whole life, begins to reconsider things as she sees her brother's photos from Vietnam. Instead of sending her letters to describe the war, he sends her his undeveloped film rolls to show her. No words, just photos. And in each roll, a photo of the moon.
I feel that this book would work better with older elementary students, only because a coinciding study of Vietnam would be much easier to get into more deeply. The reading level is probably a bit lower than 5th grade, making it an ideal book for a book club who can handle more complex subject matter and high level mature discussions, but perhaps requires a shorter, less dense text. Great themes to explore here, and (at least for this reader, who never even had any siblings gone to war) strong emotional connections.