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Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam

Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam

by Walter Dean Myers, Ann Grifalconi (Illustrator)

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A young American soldier waits for his enemy, rifle in hand, finger on the trigger. He is afraid to move and yet afraid not to move. Gunshots crackle in the still air. The soldier fires blindly into the distant trees at an unseen enemy. He crouches and waits -- heart pounding, tense and trembling, biting back tears. When will it all be over?




A young American soldier waits for his enemy, rifle in hand, finger on the trigger. He is afraid to move and yet afraid not to move. Gunshots crackle in the still air. The soldier fires blindly into the distant trees at an unseen enemy. He crouches and waits -- heart pounding, tense and trembling, biting back tears. When will it all be over?

Walter Dean Myers joined the army on his seventeeth birthday, at the onset of American involvement in Vietnam, but it was the death of his brother in 1968 that forever changed his mind about war.

In a gripping and powerful story-poem, the award-winning author takes readers into the heart and mind of a young soldier in an alien land who comes face-to-face with the enemy. Strikingly illustrated with evocative and emotionally wrenching collages by Caldecott Honor artist Ann Grifalconi, this unforgettable portrait captures one American G.L's haunting experience.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a starred review, PW called this an "unusual and gripping picture book set in Vietnam and geared to older readers," as the narrator comes face-to-face with an enemy soldier. Ages 8-12. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
An American soldier and his squad search the countryside to find the enemy. In a concise, first person narrative, Myers provides the sights and sounds of the environment as well as the emotions of the young man. "My body shakes...My chest tightens. I wipe my sweaty palms. I bite back my tears." Equally effective are the layered collages that depict the mountainous terrain, the rice fields, the bombs exploding, a house on fire, and the fear in the soldier's eyes. The lovely and placid birds and flowers seem incongruous next to the soldiers with their guns. Such is the reality of war. The picture-book format with a brief but powerful text makes this accessible to all students in a classroom discussion. Indeed, it makes an excellent introduction to a study of the Vietnam War. The difficulties of fighting a war in such a landscape, locating and recognizing the enemy, the effects of Agent Orange, communication, the use of helicopters, and the emotional impact of waiting are some of the issues addressed in the text and illustrations which work so well together. Hauntingly stunning. 2002, HarperCollins,
— Sharon Salluzzo
A frightened young soldier is with his squad in a lush, green forest where nervous birds twitter and insects and small animals scurry for cover away from a coming firefight. "I am so afraid" admits the soldier, whose "thousand eyes look for death in the waving bamboo fields" they reach. A village, "the enemy," reveals sorrowful old people and crying babies. Then the soldier sees a young soldier of the opposite side in the elephant grass, and they stare at each other in surprise. "In a heartbeat, we have learned too much about each other," the American acknowledges to himself. That night, the tired soldier writes a letter to a loved one, and he wonders if the Vietnamese soldier he saw escaping through the tall grass is doing the same. The publisher suggests an age range of 8 to 12 for this thin, unpaged book of poetry and pictures, but it should receive wider attention and find a place on many bookshelves, for reluctant older readers, even for adults beginning English language acquisition. The detail-filled collages meld well with this poetic story of some sensitive people caught in a conflict not of their own making. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, HarperTrophy, illus., Ages 12 to adult.
—Maureen Griffin
School Library Journal
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.
Kirkus Reviews
Myers returns to the setting of his award-winning Fallen Angels (1988) with a stunning, unsettling picture book that attempts to put the reader into the heart and mind of an American soldier in Vietnam. The stream-of-consciousness narration takes the reader along on one patrol, as the unnamed grunt picks his way through the landscape, exchanges fire with "the enemy," "secures" a village with the aid of grenades, and is airlifted back to the base. The spare, poetic text is written in the present tense, lending immediacy, and is packed with sensory details: "I lift my rifle and begin to rub the palm of my hand slowly along / its wooden stock. / The weather is hot, but the sweat that runs down my back feels cold." Although the reader is told he moves with his squad, the protagonist seems to exist in psychic isolation and overload as he continually grapples with his uncertain understanding of his place, both physical and moral, relative to his enemy: "Crouched against a tree older than my grandfather, / I imagine the enemy crouching against / a tree older than his grandfather." Grifalconi's (One of the Problems of Everett Anderson, not reviewed, etc.) collage illustrations are remarkable, and suitably disturbing. A jungle effect is created by overlapping photographs of trees with close-up details of leaves, marbled paper, and negative space-all of which virtually overwhelm the human figures. The effect is claustrophobic and highly disorienting, made all the more so when the reader notices that the foliage is largely North American: maples and spruce appear, frequently with jolly wildflowers in the foreground. The selection of fauna is likewise confused and confusing: on one page, a giantsnake rests its coils in the branches of a spruce; on the next, a quail stands next to an egret. These surreal illustrations brilliantly extend the text's central question: just who is the enemy-and why, when he and I are so alike?-in this, the "land of my enemy?" Not exactly a fun read, but highly effective and very important. (Picture book. 8-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
11.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.00(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

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.

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