Author(s): Eve Bunting
Illustrator/Photographer: Ronald Himler
Publisher and Year: Clarion Books in 1990
Number of Pages: 29
This story is about a little boy and his father who go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in order to find the name of the little boy’s grandfather, who is the father of the boy’s father. While the father is searching the wall for his father’s name, the little boy is looking around at the other visitors and describing the gifts left at the wall. In the end, the boy’s father traces over his father’s name that is on the wall and takes the paper home, and the little boy is proud that his grandfather’s name is on the wall but he wishes he were there.
The images in this book do a great job of reinforcing the somber tone; for example, the color gray is used in every image, the details of the images look a bit blurry or smudged, and most of the images are not framed all the way which makes it seem like they are fading away. All the background characters drawn in this book are white but the main characters seem to be of Hispanic descent, however, they don’t look that different from the other white characters except for their dark brown hair. This instills the idea that many of the Vietnam veterans were white, which can give the impression that the white man is the hero in war and that other ethnicities were not as valuable in war. I also noticed that the two main characters were males and many of the other characters discussed in the book were males, and this also gives the wrong impression that men are to be associated with war which can also show that men are valued more than women in war and in society.
I originally thought that this book was intended as a way to teach young children about how to cope with the loss of a family member. But I realized that this book could also function as a window for children to learn about the effects of war on the more personal level, as well as, teaching them about the Vietnam War and how it impacted America as a whole. For children who have lost a family member, specifically to war, this story can be used to mirror their feelings to show that it is okay to grieve for a loved one. Overall, this story does a great job of explaining a deep message to young readers.