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Shooting the Moon

by Frances O'Roark  Dowell

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008
163 pages
ISBN: 978-1416926900

Ages 10-14

Podcast featuring this book

Jamie Dexter is “Army through and through.” Her dad is the Colonel, chief of staff at Fort Hood, Texas. Her older brother, TJ, has recently enlisted and is off to Vietnam. Jamie would go herself if she could. At twelve, she settles for working at the rec center on base, assisting Private Hollister, who’s in charge, with odd jobs when she isn’t engaging him in a spirited game of gin rummy. Jamie is fiercely proud of TJ and can’t imagine why the Colonel wanted him to wait until after college to enlist. Now she can’t wait to get his first letter. But when it comes, it’s written to her mom and dad and disappointingly spare. For Jamie, there is only a roll of exposed film with a request for her to develop it. Private Hollister arranges for a vet to teach Jamie how to use the rec center darkroom. Every subsequent letter from TJ has a roll of film for Jamie. She realizes that the pictures are his way of telling her about his life and the war in which he is serving, and that the photo of the moon he always includes bridges the distance between them. Over the course of the summer, Jamie’s skill in the darkroom grows. She is able to bring out greater detail and clarity in the prints, just as the photos themselves begin to reveal more of the tragedy that is war. At the same time, things in the rest of Jamie’s life grow increasingly unclear. Already puzzled by the Colonel’s lack of enthusiasm for TJ’s enlistment, she begins to wonder about the role her father plays in sending soliders off to war, especially when Private Hollister announces he, too, may be headed for Vietnam. Frances O’Roark Dowell’s nuanced and finely told story features a cast of complex characters, at the center of which is a feisty, funny girl who finds so much of what she once knew to be true gradually shadowed by doubt. (MS) ©2008 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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