Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
Year of the Jungle

Year of the Jungle

Fall 2013 Picture Books
Ages: 4 & Up
Author: Suzanne Collins
Illustrator: James Proimos
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545425162
Hardcover Price: $17.99

Inspired by her own childhood experience, The Hunger Games trilogy author Suzanne Collins offers a sensitive narrative about a little girl whose dad is deployed to Viet Nam. Collins captures Suzy's excitement when letters, postcards and gifts from Dad arrive, her confusion when the letters stop coming. When months go by with no word, Suzy's anxiety grows, especially when she hears worrisome comments from grown-ups and a news report on TV that Mom isn't able to shut off in time. Suzy begins to realize that the "jungle" where her dad has gone isn't the magical place where she imagined she could fly like a cartoon character. Dad comes home eventually and although things aren't quite the same, he's still the father that Suzy loves. Collins handles this with delicate care, linking together Dad's departure and return with a fitting reference to Ogden Nash's poem about the meaning of bravery: "The Tale of Custard the Dragon." James Proimos' cartoon illustrations of big-eyed characters and simple but mood-evoking landscapes are notably expressive. (Note: While "Vietnam" is the commonly seen usage, Collins uses the more authentic two-word version, as does the United Nations, incidentally.)

Lynne Heffley   ©2013 Parents' Choice
A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper's first weekly children's arts and entertainment beat.

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