The Letter Home

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Overview


A medic is sent to the front lines in the trenches of World War I. There he writes a letter to his young son describing in careful words what he does, the people he meets, and what he sees. Stark and beautiful drawings depict more fully what the letter only hints at. The Letter Home is a fable of war for all time. It marks the debut of a startling new talent.
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Overview


A medic is sent to the front lines in the trenches of World War I. There he writes a letter to his young son describing in careful words what he does, the people he meets, and what he sees. Stark and beautiful drawings depict more fully what the letter only hints at. The Letter Home is a fable of war for all time. It marks the debut of a startling new talent.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Emotion-filled. . . . A thoughtful reminiscence thats sure to spark discussion." --School Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
Decker's debut, styled as an illustrated letter from an American medic to his child at the end of WW I, indicates the difficulties of explaining war to a young audience. Scant background is provided-readers never hear who is fighting whom, or why-but the title page vaguely announces a setting (Europe, 1918), and the letter-writer is recognizable by his Red Cross armband and lack of a rifle. Terse words and pictures of icy weather convey his physical coldness and raw boredom, although he rarely speaks of his medical duties. One pen-and-ink drawing appears per page, a postcard-size rectangle captioned with an oblique statement about what he has endured. The medic remembers his infantry's march to the front lines, passing beneath American and French flags. On a stark, barbed-wire-strewn battlefield ("Some nights were alive with fireworks"), a soldier peeks out of a sandbagged trench as white explosions crack the sky. "Sometimes we played hide and seek," says the medic ingenuously, as he and others evade shadowy armed figures. The soldiers' bland faces, with no mouths, eyes turned down at the corners, convey dejection, and some details recall antiwar novels such as Slaughterhouse-Five ("Hendricks found a woman's coat. We all laughed.... He said that it kept him warm"). Yet the medic's "prayer" as his ship glides toward the Statue of Liberty ("Compassion as action to ease the pain of the world") remains as enigmatic as the situation. The retrospective "letter," which alludes to death while remaining nonjudgmental, implies the painful realities that adults try to withhold from children. All ages. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In this World War I picture book, a father writes a letter home to his young son. The illustrations of the book depict things that are only hinted at in the words. This picture book deals with the difficulty of teaching young children about war. The father decides to write a letter to his child when he knows he is coming home. The time and place are vague. No country is named but the title page does say "Europe 1918." The father can be seen in each of these drawings wearing an arm band with a cross on it showing that he is a medic in the war without a weapon. The illustrations are black-and-white drawings that give a subtle tone to this story. The sensitive way in which he depicts the adult problems of war could be helpful for children who have parents away from them in the armed service. 2005, Front Street, Ages 7 to 11.
—Nicole Peterson
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-This spare, somber picture book is best suited to older students or adults as readers must have some background knowledge of World War I to comprehend it. Careful attention to the black-and-white, pen-and-ink illustrations is required in order to understand the details that are not spelled out in the slight text. The title page features a picture of old-fashioned twin-wing airplanes. A banner in the corner says, "1918 Europe." The story begins with an illustration of a man writing a letter. It reads, "I did not want to write to you until I could say that I would be home soon." His descriptions are brief but emotion-filled. As the book progresses, readers learn that he is encapsulating his entire wartime experience in this one letter. They see the journey across a great body of water, then soldiers marching with packs. The illustrations show fortifications with barbed wire and foxholes. The boredom and anxiety of waiting are both conveyed. A signal bird finally brings the long-awaited news-"It ends, 11:00 a.m. 11/11." A boat passes the Statue of Liberty, providing the clue that the man is returning home. The final image shows a boy holding a letter beside the still-open mailbox as a man in a soldier's uniform appears before him. A thoughtful reminiscence that's sure to spark discussion.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Though this quiet tale of war is set in 1918 Europe, the story itself could reflect any modern war. An extended letter from a father to his son in America, the narrative begins: "I did not want to write to you until I could say that I would be home soon." The delicately etched, black-and-white, pen-and-ink drawings, each framed on lovely cream-colored paper, are spare and beautiful, whether depicting soldiers trudging through fields or passing day in and day out in bunkers. Overall the artwork reflects wartime's quieter moments, though, "Some nights were alive with fireworks." The letter writer's Red Cross-style armband subtly marks him as a medic, but readers know for sure when he mentions a Far Eastern prayer he learned from a patient in 1917: "Compassion as action to ease the pain of the world." On the last page, as on the cover, stands the sad-looking boy with his letter and a mysterious pair of soldier's legs. Father? Maybe not. This elegant work powerfully conveys the slow crawl of war from a soldier and father's perspective. (Picture book. 7-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932425505
  • Publisher: Highlights Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2005
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 550L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Timothy Decker has a degree in Fine Art with a concentration in drawing. He spent several years engaged in large-format and landscape photography. His work has appeared in various exhibitions. He traveled extensively until 2004, when he settle
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2009

    Compelling Approach to a Sensitive Period of History

    Be sure to read the inside jacket summary prior to the book to set the stage for reading. The story is told in a father's protective perspective to his son, but the story behind the story is told through the illustrations.

    The pen and ink drawings portray more of a realistic historical view of WWI and the events leading to the armistice (prelude to peace). The simplicity of the letter protects the reader (his son) from the true horrors and hardships that the main character (the father)experiences during his medic tour of duty in Europe.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2005

    A Grown Up Children's Book

    The Letter Home is a poignant look at the First World War seen through the images conjured from a letter sent to a child waiting for a father in the service to return home. Done with the care that a parent would lavish on a child, the tone and imagery convey the reality of war time without indulging in the violence. The books succeeds on two levels. The Letter Home brings to light an often ignored era and it makes the concept of the World War, without demeaning the spirit of those who fought in it and lessening the tragedy of the loss of life, understandable to a younger audience. Having said all of that, it would be remiss to not comment on the artwork with which the story is conveyed. The eloquent black ink strokes evoke a spare sense of simplicity for such a complex theme. The striking emotions conveyed through the characters faces and scenes through which they travel seem larger than the small panels. Bravo! Write and draw more, we are waiting. . .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2005

    A great book for kids, but not 'just for kids.'

    With spare, simple words and images, Tim Decker has given his readers a story book about war that is neither evasive nor dishonest. The pen-and-ink art is simple, yet elegant, suiting the subect matter perfectly. But the real story here lies in the gulf between what the father writes to his son, and what he's actually seen, and what goes said and unsaid between adults and children, fathers and sons.

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