Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shooting the Moon

Dowell, F.O. (2008). Shooting the Moon. New York, NY: Athenium Books for Young Readers.

Plot Summary:
The Army is in Jamie Dexter's blood. Her dad is the Colonel of Fort Hood in Texas and her grandfather was in the Army before him. She has lived her whole life being a part of the Army, traveling around the country to base after base. When Jamie's brother TJ signs up for the Army, she is thrilled, her brother will finally be able to live out their childhood dreams of enlisting. But when Jamie's dad isn't happy about TJ enlisting, it puts a chink in everything Jamie has ever believed about her father and the Army. Her brother is sent to the Vietnam war, excitedly anticipating hearing his tales of war, Jamie is disappointed when the only things TJ sends her are undeveloped canisters of film. As Jamie develops her brothers photos and befriends a private whose brother died in the Vietnam War, the realities of war confront Jamie and she finds herself questioning everything she had been raised to believe.

This is an wonderful novel of a girl's love for her father and family values, and how getting older and being exposed to the realities of life can begin to shatter everything you've grown up to believe. As a Navy brat, growing up in Navy housing, this book struck a particular note with me. It is an odd thing to be raised almost exclusively around those in support of the military, and then come to an age when you realize that not everyone feels this way about the military, which begins your own questioning of your beliefs. I loved Jamie's gradual realization that her father has imperfections and weaknesses, this is something many girls go through in their tweens, and it was described nicely within this story. It was interesting to see Jamie's ideals questioned as the horrors of war are discovered in her brother's photos.

realistic fiction, historical fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

family, Vietnam War, self-identity, loss

2010 Rhode Island Children's Book Award

Character Names/Descriptions:
Jamie Dexter: 12 year-old girl; lives in Fort Hood, Texas; dad is the colonel of the base; brother just sent to Vietnam; volunteers at rec center; plays gin rummy; learns to develop her brother's photographs of Vietnam
T.J. Dexter: Jamie's brother; enlists in the Army as a medic; sent to Vietnam; takes photographs to send to Jamie, especially of the moon; becomes a POW
Private Bucky Hollister: runs the rec center where Jamie volunteers; plays gin rummy with Jamie; his brother died in Vietnam
The Colonel: Jamie's dad; Colonel of Fort Hood; tries to prevent T.J. from going to Vietnam
Sergeant Theophilus James Byrd: teaches Jamie how to develop film; has already been to Vietnam, which greatly affected him

As Jamie's brother is sent off to Vietnam, the behavior of her Colonel father as well as the friendship with a private whose brother died in the war begins Jamie questioning her long time idealism of war.

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