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When young Suzy's father leaves for Vietnam, she struggles to understand what this means for her and her family. What is the jungle like? Will her father be safe? When will he return? The months slip by, marked by the passing of the familiar holidays and the postcards that her ...
When young Suzy's father leaves for Vietnam, she struggles to understand what this means for her and her family. What is the jungle like? Will her father be safe? When will he return? The months slip by, marked by the passing of the familiar holidays and the postcards that her father sends. With each one, he feels more and more distant, until Suzy isn't sure she'd even recognize her father anymore.
This heartfelt and accessible picture book by Suzanne Collins, the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the Hunger Games series, is accompanied by James Proimos's sweet and funny illustrations. This picture book will speak to any child who has had to spend time away from a parent.
"Collins writes with raw power." -- TIME Magazine
Praise for James Proimos's work:
“ Imaginative and humorous ”-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"Proimos's light cartoon art and plotline carry some weighty themes." -- SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"In her first picture book, Collins sensitively examines the impact of war on the very young, using her own family history as a template. Suzy is the youngest of four children—Proimos draws her with impossibly big, questioning blue eyes and a mass of frizzy red hair—and she is struggling to understand the changes in her family. ?My dad has to go to something called a war,? she explains. ?It’s in a place called Viet Nam. Where is Viet Nam? He will be gone a year. How long is a year? I don’t know what anybody’s talking about.? When Suzy learns that her father is in the jungle, she imagines something akin to the setting of her favorite cartoon (Collins suggests it’s George of the Jungle). As the months wear on, though, Suzy begins to piece together the danger her father is in, whether it’s through the increasingly unnerving postcards he sends (one reads, ?Pray for me,? in closing) or by catching a snippet of wartime violence on the news. ?Explosions. Helicopters. Guns. Soldiers lie on the ground. Some of them aren’t moving.? In four wordless spreads, Proimos makes Suzy’s awakening powerfully clear, as the gray jungle she initially pictured (populated by four smiling, brightly colored animals) gives way to a more violent vision, as the animals morph into weapons of war. Just when Suzy’s confusion and fear reach an apex: ?Then suddenly my dad’s home.? As in Collins’s Hunger Games books, the fuzzy relationship between fear and bravery, and the reality of combat versus an imagined (or, in the case of those books, manufactured) version of it is at the forefront of this story. By the final pages, Suzy has come to understand that ?Some things have changed but some things will always be the same.? It’s a deceptively simple message of reassurance that readers who may currently be in Suzy’s situation can take to heart, whether their loved ones return changed, as hers did, or don’t return at all. " - Publishers Weekly starred review
"Collins mines her own experience to tell a tender, personal story of war seen through a child’s eyes. Firstgrader Suzy’s father is deployed to Viet Nam. At first, though she misses him, she dreams of the exotic jungle. But as the year goes on, marked by Christmas trees and candy hearts, things get harder. His postcards arrive less and less frequently, while news of the war, and its real dangers, comes more and more often. In the end Suzy’s father returns, and while some things are different, some things are the same. Collins’ unflinching first-person account details the fears and disappointments of the situation as a child would experience them. And where more realistic illustrations would feel overwrought and sentimental, Proimos’s flat, cartoony drawings, with their heavy lines and blocky shapes, are sturdy and sweet, reflecting a child’s clear-eyed innocence. While small, personal details and specific references to Viet Nam fix the story in one child’s individual experience, it is these very particularities that establish the kind of indelible and heartfelt resonance to be universally understood. Indeed, children missing parents in all kinds of circumstances will find comfort here." - Booklist starred review
"Collins, well known for her middle-school and YA fantasies, offers here a radical change of pace in this picture book story inspired by her own childhood, documenting the year young Suzy’s father goes off to the Vietnam War. At first, the prospect doesn’t sound all that bad to a rising first-grader with little grasp of time; how long could one year be? Additionally, Dad is headed for the jungle, and some of Suzy’s favorite animals live (at least by her reckoning) in the jungle. A year turns out to be a very long time, though, especially when postcards come only sporadically, people’s efforts at cheering her up only fill her with heretofore unconsidered anxieties, and Dad’s brief missives seem increasingly distanced and confused. Theirs is a happy-ish ending—Dad does come home, although “he looks different. Tired and thin and his skin has turned the color of pancake syrup. . . . He stares into space. He is here but not here.” Collins’ text is simple, but it’s rich in the telling details that establish the pervasive fear (“So many things are scary now”) that spills over into other aspects of the little girl’s life—getting a birthday card from Dad that should have gone to her sister, being showered with too much Halloween candy from a sympathetic neighbor, having a terrifying experience of being tossed into a local swimming pool. Proimos’ ink-lined, digitally colored illustrations are the pitch-perfect tonal complement to Collins’ narration, with the family portrayed as wide-eyed, childlike cartoons that carry on with daily life in crayon-bright hues, while young Suzy’s angst-filled imaginings take shape in full-spread, full-bleed gray-tone scenes that twist her innocent favorite animals into recurrent nightmarish motifs and symbols of war. With text and illustrations that invite close reading, this will be a powerful title to share with children well beyond picture-book age. "
- The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books starred review