Monday, March 15, 2010

Purple Heart

McCormick, Patricia. PURPLE HEART. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061730900 [Suggested Grade Levels 6 - 10]

PURPLE HEART starts in an army hospital that was once Saddam Hussein’s residence. Private Matt Duffy awakes in his hospital bed to receive a PURPLE HEART. He can only remember fragments of the incident that put him there. The most haunting image is of a young Iraqi boy he had befriended flying through the air with a bullet in his chest. Matt is horrified to think he may be responsible for killing young Ali. Matt eventually goes back with his squad in hopes of being the soldier he was, but fears being unable to make the right choice in combat and struggling with communicating these feelings to others. A letter to his sweetheart back home while in the hospital expresses his confusion and questioning, but instead of sending it, he tears it up, then just writes, “How was the bio quiz?”

Regardless of how one frames the politics of war, the reader comes away with a strong compassion and understanding for the complexity and chaos of the visceral experiences of our soldiers. McCormick was inspired to write this story when she participated in a peace march with Iraqi and Vietnam Vets. There were boots with name labels for each soldier fatality. There was also a pile of civilian shoes representing those fatalities. A pair of little sneakers is the image that stayed with her through the development of PURPLE HEART. McCormick states, “There is no guilt or innocence in war. People are doing the best that they can in extraordinary circumstances and we can’t really know what it’s like.”

Involve young readers in sending “care” packages to troops or interview returning soldiers or vets about their experiences.

Other books by Patricia McCormick:
SOLD. ISBN 9780786851720
CUT. ISBN 9780786851720

By Susie Demarest

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