Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Wall by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler

I was going through my picture books this morning trying to get them a little organized, and I came across The Wall, which I had completely forgotten that I owned.  I wish I remembered it so for Memorial Day, but I didn't so I thought I would write about it today.

On a cool, breezy day, a young boy and his father visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC.  The boys notices that the wall long long, shiny and shaped like a V.  The names on the wall are in straight lines, the "letters march side by side, like rows of soldier."

But this isn't just a sightseeing visit.  The boy and his father are looking for the boy's grandfather.  As they search for his name, the boy sees different people approach the way - a wounded veteran, an elderly couple, a group of school girls - and the different mementos left by friends and family members who are still mourning the loss of the sons, brother, fathers, grandfathers  Meanwhile, the boys father searches for the name of the father he lost when he was the age his son is now.

Finally, there it is - George Munoz.  Son and father make a rubbing of his names, then quietly stand in front of it together, no doubt thinking about what a loss they have suffered.

Because, besides honoring the veterans who lost their lives in the Vietnam War, the wall also reminds us of what a profound loss to family and friends even a single life can be.  And I think Eve Bunting has really captured that so well in this book, as well as what a truly emotional experience visiting the Wall can be, regardless of your feelings about the Vietnam War.

Ronald Himler's quiet impressionistic styled watercolor illustrations and his palette of background grays and semi-colorful foreground figures of visitors and mementos really reflect the somber mood of visiting such a meaningful visit.

I created this blog because I was interested in the impact war has on children effected by it and I think the little boy's last words really epitomize that impact:

"But I'd rather my grandpa here, taking me to the river, telling me to button my jacket because it's cold.
I'd rather have him here."

This book is recommended for readers age 5+
This book was purchased for my personal library


A few years ago, I wrote that when I was too young to understand, I wore a MIA bracelet even though I was too young to understand what it was about.  The name on the bracelet was James W. Grace.  James was born in 1939 in Louisiana and shot down on June 14, 1969, which is, incidentally, flag day, and has been MIA since then.  Eventually, my bracelet fell apart, but with the advent of the Internet, I periodically did a search for James to see if maybe he had made it home.  Sadly, he is still MIA and his name has been listed on the Vietnam Memorial.  Years ago, when I visited it, I did a rubbing just like the father and son in the story:

So it was time to do another search, and I was please to find a photo of James on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall of Faces
James William Grace 1939-1969
And just in case you are wondering what happens to all those mementos left at the wall, it is all explained in this 11 minute video, and trust me, it is well worth the tie it takes to watch.

And as always, 
In Memoriam
FCP 1955-2001

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