Shattered: Stories of Children and War

Shattered: Stories of Children and War

by Jennifer Armstrong

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As bullets ring and bombs are dropped, children watch—mostly from the sidelines, but occasionally in the direct line of fire. Unaware of the political issues or power struggles behind the battle, all they know are the human, emotional consequences of this thing called war. This collection examines all of war’s implications for young people—from those


As bullets ring and bombs are dropped, children watch—mostly from the sidelines, but occasionally in the direct line of fire. Unaware of the political issues or power struggles behind the battle, all they know are the human, emotional consequences of this thing called war. This collection examines all of war’s implications for young people—from those caught in the line of fire to the children of the veterans of wars long past.

Critically acclaimed author Jennifer Armstrong brings together 12 powerful voices in young people's literature to explore the realities of war from a child's perspective. The settings vary widely—the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, an attempted coup in Venezuela, the American Civil War, crisis in the Middle East—but the effects are largely the same. In war, no life is ever left untouched. In war, lives are shattered.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
According to PW, these 12 stories by as many writers are "thought-provoking" as they cover a wide range of settings and conflicts, from the Civil War to WWII to an Afghani girl's story of the Soviet destruction of her village in "Faizabad Harvest, 1980." Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Twelve short pieces by notable authors expose the far-reaching consequences of war as experienced by children. Settings range from the battlefields of the American Civil War to Afghanistan during the 1980s. The main characters of each story are touched by combat in different ways; some have siblings or friends fighting overseas, while others are struggling to survive in the midst of battle. Many diverse viewpoints are represented here. The two children in David Lubar's "War is Swell" have a better life during conflict than in peacetime, and hope that the fighting never stops. One particularly powerful story by Lois Metzger, "Snap, Crackle, Pop," recreates the Communist scare of the 1950s, and is based on the case of a real librarian accused of Communist affiliations. M.E. Kerr adapted her novel Slap Your Sides into a piece about a young Quaker conscientious objector who leaves his family to serve in the Civilian Public Service. Related facts about each conflict run at the bottom of every page to give the reader more background information, and the Authors' Notes at the book's conclusion give insight into the origin of each particular story. Every reader who takes the time to pick up this book will find it a thought provoking and disturbing look at the tragedy of war. This title is strongly recommended for every academic and public library collection. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, Random House, Dell Laurel-Leaf, 166p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Olivia Durant
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-A collection of realistic short stories by prominent authors, each of whom focuses on a different conflict and time period. Marilyn Singer's title story introduces Teddy and Thea, neither of whom was born when their father fought in Vietnam, but Teddy is developmentally disabled as a result of the soldier's exposure to Agent Orange. M. E. Kerr's "I'll See You When This War Is Over" tells of the struggle of Bud, a religious conscientious objector, during World War II. In "Snap, Crackle, Pop," Lois Metzger writes about the Cold War during the McCarthy era. Ben Forster's mother, the town's head librarian, is accused of being a communist supporter and she chooses to go to jail rather than speak of her past life, citing her right to privacy. These selections will make teens cry, will make them angry, but most of all they will make them think. Statistical facts related to the events in the story appear in a running commentary at the bottom of each page. Shattered is a well-rounded collection and includes source and author notes. This book is a difficult read, at least emotionally, but these stories are important. It puts a human face on conflicts in various parts of the world and shows the far-reaching consequences, driving home the point that no one is left untouched in wartime.-Saleena L. Davidson, South Brunswick Public Library, Monmouth Junction, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Editor Armstrong (Theodore Roosevelt, p. 104, etc.) compiles a subtle and wrenching assortment of stories about war and its effects on children-particularly poignant in light of the events of September 11th. Familiar and lesser-known young adult authors cover the Civil War, WWI and WWII, the Cold War, and Vietnam, as well as conflicts in Central and South America and the Middle East. The stories are remarkable not only for their depth, but also for how much they avoid cliche and truly delve into the long-term consequences of war on children. One addresses the issue of the conscientious objectors to US involvement in Vietnam through the eyes of a young Quaker's friends and family. Another tells of the librarian in a small town who is accused of being a Communist during the days of the Cold War and how this false statement affects her son. Yet another describes the slightly impaired son of a Vietnam veteran (readers assume he suffered from the effects of Agent Orange) and how his father's grim experiences as a soldier shaped his childhood. Each features a line of factual information relating to the particular war running across the bottom of the pages. This tactic is helpful in placing the story in context, but the main narrative is usually so strong that it's easy to overlook the line. Armstrong also includes a very personal introduction, detailing her reasons for compiling this collection. Authors provide biographical information and some background for their story at the back. This volume would be a valuable addition to a school library and would be especially useful in a social studies/history classroom, where it could be used several times as the different time periods are taught. Itwould also be a meaningful read-aloud for junior-high classes. An outstanding collection important at any time. (Short stories. 10-14)
From the Publisher
This collection, written by 12 noted young adult authors, examines all of war’s implications for young people—from those caught in the line of fire to the children of veterans of wars long past.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
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333 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Yesterday, as the war finished its first day, we became refugees. The fires, air raids, bullets, and bombardment ruined many homes and burned many crop fields. They drove us away in the middle of the night like a nation of terrified deer. We all knew that someone wanted us dead yesterday. So we ran to the caves and then through the fields that would take us to the second day, and to a road through which we could cross to safety in a neighboring country.

But the road was empty except for the fierce June sun that pierced my face. I asked that I sit. My father instructed that I must remain standing and ready to run. But my feet had gotten bruised from running without shoes yesterday, and I could not stand. When the sun centered in the sky and my noon shadow pooled like the blood of a butchered animal below me, I fell to the ground, asleep. Mother, who hovered over while holding my infant sister to her chest, and my two brothers frantically shook me and pinched my cheeks until I woke up again.

"No one can carry you," Dad explained as he skinned off a piece of cucumber and rubbed it on my face to further awaken me. He had carried the cucumber to replace water at Mother's urging last night.

"Do you really think it can replace water?" he had exclaimed in the darkness before we fled. 'il imagine so," she had replied.

"Imagine" was Mother's favorite word. In Arabic, she would say Batkhayyal, which also meant "to see the shadow of a thought," as if one is separated from it by a thin cloth. Mother seemed to dwell behind this veil, gaze through it, and long for uniting with its other side. Mother could imagine solutions to many problems and would pop them out of her mouth with the ease I popped my Bazooka chewing gum.

Now, standing only one step away from my mother, I could see that she had slipped into the other side and the door was shut behind her. My heart pounded at the barrier and begged that she come out and see me. But her gaze only floated afar on the horizon. When she finally spoke, the words were not directed at me.

"I hear something in the distance," she said quietly, as if not to disturb the spider-thread perception connecting the sound to her ear, "perhaps an engine."

A fierce look covered my father's face. He closed his eyes, cupped his ears, and opened his mouth, as if to swallow the sound upon capturing it. He asked us all to listen; then he instructed that we hold hands and run behind him.

If it's a vehicle, I will stop it no matter what that takes," my father vowed.

At the center of the road, Dad flung his arms across his chest. He was ready to embrace a broad destiny. He wailed after the men to join him, and many answered. Dad and the men huddled and, like magnets, stuck to one another's bodies. They formed a tight,knot barrier. Terror was the mortar that held them together. Their heads faced to the inside, and they looked into one another's eyes to fill each other with courage. Everyone seemed to understand the strategy, and in no time other men formed new knots along the road. The noise now became increasingly louder, its diesel hum madly goading everyone's desperate hopes and deepest worries.

People spoke words of solid anger as they fought to get closer to the road. They pushed and propelled one another in every direction, like marble balls in a child's play. My brothers and I knew to plant our bodies where we could see our dad: We were a compass needle, and he was our North. Our mother, a tall and astonishingly strong woman who relied on her hands more than she ever relied on words, was always behind us and making certain we stood ahead of the crowd.

It was a white water tanker that emerged from the silver spot on the horizon. People cried out to God in gratitude and jumped high in the air as if to deliver the words. But the tanker increased its speed as it approached a group of men that blocked the road. They all dashed to the side at the last moment, and the tanker went through like a comb parting hair.

The tanker then came closer to Dad and the barricade of men that formed with him. The men raised their voices and promised that the tanker would not go through. They chanted that God is mightiest. They asked for His help, which seemed to be as near as the end of the heart-wrenching screech that brought the tanker to a stop. Dad dropped to the ground in immediate prayer; the men formed a circle to protect him.

Quickly, people stuck themselves to the tanker like ants on an abandoned candy bar. Men climbed on the tank. Women, almost all of them carrying children, cried as it was apparent that the tanker could not transport all of us. Mother instructed that my brothers and I must respond to all of her directions at a bullet's speed. The three of us, who had become more like soldiers than children that day, nodded our heads in compliance.

The directions were given upon hearing Dad's voice, which came to us shredded by noises. But Mother could understand every word. Dad was asking us to move closer to the tanker's door. Mother immediately commanded that my brothers climb up the tanker, find a way to fling their bodies on the windshield, and block the driver's view. She then pulled me up by the arm and ordered that I squeeze myself among the bodies or, if I must, seep through them like water, but get myself to stand on the doorstep of the tanker, hold its handle, and not let go. She said she would be right behind me and watch each of my steps.

From the Hardcover edition.

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