Author: Silas House
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: September 2009
Audiobook Narrator: Silas House
Audiobook Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Audiobook Publication Date: February 2011
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel
GoodReads Summary: Bicentennial fireworks burn the sky. Bob Seger growls from a transistor radio. And down by the river, girls line up on lawn chairs in pursuit of the perfect tan. Yet for ten-year-old Eli Book, the summer of 1976 is the one that threatened to tear his family apart. There is his distant mother; his traumatized Vietnam vet dad; his wild sister; his former warprotester aunt; and his tough yet troubled best friend, Edie, the only person with whom he can be himself. As tempers flare and his father’s nightmares rage, Eli watches from the sidelines, but soon even he cannot escape the current of conflict. From Silas House comes a tender look at the complexities of childhood and the realities of war — a quintessentially Southern novel filled with music, nostalgic detail, a deep respect for nature, and a powerful sense of place.
What I Think: I have so much to say about this book it's hard to even know where to begin. I've had it on my TBR for a long time now and I wish I had read it sooner. It's beautiful. This book resonated with me because it's about Eli whose dad is a veteran from the Vietnam War. He was in Vietnam when Eli was born and now it's 1976 and his dad is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. I wasn't born until 1980 but my dad is a Vietnam veteran who also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Like Eli's dad, my father wasn't diagnosed and didn't get help for this right away. It wasn't until I was in high school that my dad sought help for what he was experiencing. I just realized I have talked about this before when I reviewed All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg last year. Of all the books related to the Vietnam War in some way, this one was the most real for me. I have experienced so many similar emotions that Eli did in the book.
The strongest feeling that was so real for me was reading about how Eli talks about his dad and wanting to be able to have a connection with his dad. His dad is a hard worker and really cares for his family but Eli recognizes that because his dad was in Vietnam there is a part of him that no one in his family can ever know. There is a part of him that no one can relate to and no one can ever truly understand, even though they so badly want to. I have a great relationship with my dad and he has been an amazing supporter and cheerleader in my life but when I think about him and his experiences in Vietnam I often feel like there is a piece of him that we (my family and I) can never fully grasp. What makes it even harder is how horribly hard it is for him to share the stories with us. I know some stories that my dad has shared with us but it is a hard topic to bring up and harder for him to share. Reading this story touched me because I completely understand what Eli's feeling and I can say that Silas House got it so right. His description is amazing.
I loved listening to the audiobook because Silas House has such an interesting accent and soothing voice when it comes to reading. I feel like his narration made me really slow down and savor the brilliance of his writing. I wonder if this book seems so great to me because it did resonate with me on such a personal level but I really think his writing is superb. It's not just a story of Eli and his dad, it is so much more than that. I can still hear Silas House's voice in my head talking about Edie and Nell and his mom and his dad. I'm glad this book is part of the collection of growing historical fiction about the Vietnam War. I could go on and on but what I really want to say is please read this book, think of me, and think about how lives are impacted by war.
Read Together: Grades 7 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 8 - 12
Read With: All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg, Wednesday Wars and Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani (out February 2012)
Snatch of Text: “I thought: I should remember this moment. I could write it down in my little composition book, the one that contained all my secrets that no one would ever read. I didn’t know why, but I always felt the need to write about times like this evening when I had danced with my mother and rode Nell’s back. Whole scenes of your life can slip away forever if you don’t put them down in ink.” p.43-44
“’Country people sure do have more stars than anybody else’, she said. ‘We ain’t got much, but we got the stars.’” p.44
“I had heard my mother tell Stella one time that it was easy to not break down unless you were talking to someone you loved. That’s when you lost it.” p. 52
“Then I realized what comforted me about the book: even though Anne Frank was dead now, it was even bigger that someone as strong and brave as she was had once lived. That was enough. She had been a child of war, like me, but she made sure that she was more than that. I had to do the same.” p. 271
“I gave her my copy of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. She sat down and ran her palm over its cool cover. ‘What a beautiful gift,’ she said. ‘There’s no better present than a book.’
More than anything, I would miss looking at the cover; Anne Frank’s good face looking out at me over the years, her eyes saying, I am here just as clearly as the trees always did. ‘It’s sad though,’ I offered. ‘It’s about a little girl in World War II.’” p. 273-274Mentor Text For: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Characterization, Mood, Imagery, Descriptive, Personal Narrative, Voice
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when a book helped you learn about yourself or a book spoke to you. Write about a memory you have of being in nature. Write about your favorite person - describe him or her with physical and character traits.
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Bravery, Courage, Relationships, War, Growing Up, Independence, Understanding, Empathy, Loyalty, Standing Up For What You Believe In, Honesty, Love, Forgiveness, Communication, Suicide, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Cancer