Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2015. 48 pages.
Johnnie Wallen was a sensitive, observant individual whose words tell the horrors of war while also offering glimpses of humanity and hope. Inspired to join the Army after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the "Kentucky Kid," as he was known, was initially teased for his youth but gained the respect of his fellow soldiers for his marksmanship. He meets a young Filipino girl, Little Heart, and her wrenching experiences are finely portrayed, allowing young readers to see clearly the impact of war on children and families. In an incredible, heartwarming (and true) turn of events, Little Heart eventually finds a way to repay "Tucky Jo" for his help and care.
The first recommendation comes from being authored and illustrated by Patricia Polacco! Has she ever put out a book that is anything but excellent and engaging, with her storyteller’s art? Pink and Say, Junkyard Wonders, The Keeping Quilt, and Chicken Sunday come to mind, along with many others. Polacco has an unfailing ability to depict serious events through a child’s eye, and draws her audiences in as a master beguiler. Her use of story and words strikes a responsive chord in her readers, as well as her use of art that portrays the story beautifully without being explicitly violent or sentimental. Her characters are warm, human, and vulnerable.
This book is for all ages. The book jacket says ages 4-8, but it lends itself to appeal to anyone much older. Military veterans and their families should also find this book particularly appealing. Anyone that wants to understand war from the point of view of a child would find this book to be helpful, yet the book is graceful and not violent, so younger children can still see it and identify with a young girl who has had some bad things happen to her. Because the book does have a positive ending, it illustrates hope and the positive idea that good deeds do have a reward.
Bibliotherapy Topics: Grief-Loss, Trauma, War
Debra McCracken - TDRL Operations Supervisor