Walter Dean Myers was the New York Times bestselling author of Monster, the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award; a former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature; and an inaugural NYC Literary Honoree. Myers received every single major award in the field of children's literature. He was the author of two Newbery Honor Books and six Coretta Scott King Awardees. He was the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, a three-time National Book Award Finalist, as well as the first-ever recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. Ann Grifalconi illustrated patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam by Walter Dean Myers, winner of the Jane Addams Children's Book Award. She is the author-illustrator of the Caldecott Honor book The Village of Round and Square Houses and Tiny's Hat. Ms. Grifalconi lives in New York City.
Gr 4 Up-Myers's verse powerfully evokes the experiences of a young soldier in this picture book. Searching the unfamiliar landscape, his squad tries to sense the presence of the enemy in the jungle. But who is the enemy? The old man in the village? The babies? Planes pass overhead, dropping bombs "at a distance that is never distant enough." The author captures the young man's fear, uncertainty, and weariness. "We move again. We are always moving." The layers of Grifalconi's full-page collage art conceal and reveal the flickering images of the text. Figures blend into the forest. Shadow and shape converge. The repetition of words and a landscape scene at the beginning and near the end of the book are particularly effective because they are the same except for the addition of fire and plumes of smoke in the "wide valleys" and "thick green forests" after the patrol has finished its mission. These pictures are difficult to erase from one's memory. When the soldier does encounter an enemy as young as himself, neither fires. Close enough to see one another, they cannot kill. "In a heartbeat, we have learned too much about each other." Myers and Grifalconi's presentation is one that is hard to forget.-Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Camouflage endpapers set the stage for Myers's (Handbook for Boys: A Novel, reviewed below) unusual and gripping picture book set in Vietnam and geared to older readers. "The land of my enemy has wide valleys, mountains that stretch along the far horizon, rushing brown rivers, and thick green forests," the riveting narrative poem begins. Grifalconi's (the Everett Anderson books) sophisticated mixed-media collage shows a breathtaking vista, lush with trees, jagged mountains and terraced hillsides. On the next spread, Myers drops readers into the jungle with the narrator, a young American soldier, and his squad of nine men. The protagonist makes a nerve-wracking trek ("Somewhere in the forest, hidden in the shadows, is the enemy"), witnesses a bombing raid ("My body shakes. I tell myself that I will not die on this bright day") and comes face-to-face with an enemy soldier ("In a heartbeat, we have learned too much about each other"neither fires). Myers, who fought in Vietnam, lays bare the young man's emotions. Short phrases combine power with grace as the author artfully conveys the outward events of warfare and the resulting inner turmoil: in the village, the young man sees "the enemy. A brown woman with rivers of age etched deeply into her face. An old man, his eyes heavy with memory." Grifalconi, too, subtly highlights war's absurd contradictions. One particularly striking scene finds the G.I. facing his enemy across a field alight with heartbreakingly lovely flowers and wildlife. Readers will hope this is as close as they ever get to the real thing. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.