Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Things a Brother Knows

Reinhardt, Dana. 2010. THE THINGS A BROTHER KNOWS. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375844553 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

Levi’s older brother Boaz has spent the last the last three years in “some desert country, half a world away.” The Marines say he is fine, but Levi knows he is not—he will not ride in cars, he keeps the radio on static, he will not sleep in a bed or even come out of his room, and he often dives for cover and screams during the night. While his brother has been hailed a hero, Levi sees only a brother who has changed. When Boaz disappears, Levi searches his brother’s computer and discovers maps and cryptic notes, so he sets out to find his brother.

This journey of discovery explores survivor guilt and brotherly affection. Social commentary, coming of age, and a bit of a love story combine to make this a stirring and heartfelt story. Levi and Boaz are both damaged by war, in different and sometimes inexplicable ways, but the bonds of family prove to be stronger than the damage. Reinhardt goes beyond writing a novel about war and instead paints a portrait of survival and love.

Use this novel to connect students with current events and the stories of the struggles of returning soldiers or as a book club choice for boys.
In history classes, pair with books about other wars, especially classics such as Stephen Crane’s THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE to make connections between the past and the present.

Other novels set against the backdrop of war:
Myers, Walter Dean. FALLEN ANGELS. ISBN 9780545055765
Myers, Walter Dean. SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH. ISBN 9780439916257
O’Brien, Tim. THE THINGS THEY CARRIED. ISBN 9780618706419
Schmidt, Gary D. THE WEDNESDAY WARS. ISBN 9780547237602

By Janet Hilbun

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