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Year of the Jungle

by Suzanne Collins
Illustrated by James Proimos

Published by Scholastic Press, 2013
40 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-42516-2

Ages 4-9

A masterful picture book excels at revealing a young child’s experience during the year her father is away at war. Suzy’s dad has to go to a place called Viet Nam. She imagines flying in the jungle—her favorite cartoon is set in a jungle—with her cat, Rascal. She is the youngest in a family determined to shelter her from things she’s not ready to understand. But they can’t protect her from good intentions. When she tells people her dad’s in Viet Nam, they get worried. At Halloween, “One of the worried ladies says, ‘Your dad will be just fine,’ and gives me way too much extra candy. I start to feel worried, too.” Over the year there are many unsettling events. One of her dad’s postcards says “Pray for me.” He sends her a birthday card in winter, but her birthday is in summer. She accidentally sees a news report about Viet Nam. “Later I hide in the closet and cry.” The postcards stop. Suzy’s flights of imagination become darker, tainted by fear she can’t express. It’s only when her dad returns that she can finally speak that fear, if indirectly, when she tells him, “Rascal didn’t think you were coming back.” Suzanne Collins mines her own childhood memories, transforming them with tremendous skill into a story that is resonant and truthful and timeless and remarkably child-centered. James Proimos’s illustrations are stylistically simple but wisely executed, full of sensitivity and power and poignancy, along with occasional moments of whimsy (that cat!). Honor Book, 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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