Unpopular. One word sums up how many feel about the Vietnam War. But what about the men who risked their lives thinking they were doing the right thing? What about their family? A story of a granddaughter who wants to better understand her grandfather.
Title: My Grandfather’s War
Author: Glyn Harper
Illustrator: Jenny Cooper
ISBN: 9781775592990 Language: English
Classification: Fiction with historical refereces
Themes: Vietnam War, grandparents, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)
What’s it about?
This is the story of a man called Robert as told by his granddaughter in first person. She describes many things about her grandfather including how he came to live with her family, how he helps her with her homework , and how he walks with a limp. Robert’s leg was injured while serving in the Vietnam War but his granddaughter tells the reader that her parents have told her not to ask him about it because he gets really sad.
The girl wants to do her own research about the Vietnam War but struggles to find any books in the library and so one day she decides to ask her grandfather about it. What follows is a conversation about feelings, treatment, and what he saw.
This picture book is well written and in a way that children can understand. The subject matter is dealt with honestly (eg. it doesn’t glamourise it) and sensitively. Seeing the strong bond between a grandfather and granddaughter is a plus and beautifully portrayed in the text and illustrations. Illustrations? Well they are stunning – just look at the cover!
The subject matter is of a serious nature and some viewers may be find some passages and illustrations distressing
So I’ve been sitting on this book for a couple of weeks because it’s the kind of book you need to read more than once and one you need to reflect upon. This book is scheduled for release by EK Books in Australia on the 1st June 2018.
I’ve written before about how the Vietnam War was a very unpopular war and one in which those who served were pretty much ignored when they returned (either that or despised despite serving their country) when I reviewed using the song I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Green Light).
The story is really a little girl trying to make a connection with her grandfather. She is trying to understand why he gets quiet, why he doesn’t like talking about the past. At the same time this book is also drawing attention to the fact that war isn’t a “nice” place and the reality of serving, as well as the possible consequences, of serving. It also draws attention to the war which really isn’t written about in comparison with other wars.
A specific example I appreciated the part of the conversation where Robert tells his granddaughter (page pictured left): “I thought the war would be exciting and that nothing bad would happen to me. I didn’t think I would get hurt.” I’ll be honest when I write that this is not spoken about a lot. As someone who had many ancestors that fought many would not speak about it but people implied that they had had a “great” time in serving which may not have been the best description if the person had been asked – particularly for this unpopular war.
The illustrations are so touching in this book and really bring the reality to the forefront without being too confrontational for kids. As someone who adores the realistic style of illustrations this book is visually superb.
Overall, this book is a great one to have to use in the classroom or at home. Due to the illustrations and the storyline this book isn’t limited to just certain grades but with the right lessons plans could be used effectively well into the upper primary grades.