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Monday, August 5, 2013

The Road to Afghanistan, written by Linda Granfield and illustrated by Brian Deines. North Winds Press, Scholastic. 2013. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"John William Peterson didn't die in The Great War.
But on one hot summer's day, on a battlefield that was once glorious with ripening wheat, an explosion changed his life.
He went home to Alberta without one of his arms."

In this book that is meant to be read aloud to children, Linda Granfield introduces a military family. Three generations have fought in wars for Canada, and she describes how those wars have changed their lives.

The story begins with a soldier once stationed in Afghanistan:

"I've been there and seen the beauty of its mountains
and its fields of wildflowers.
I've also seen the ugliness that war can bring to a
country and its people. I was a soldier there for two
tours of duty, but now I'm home."

She goes on to say that her family has a proud history of military service. Her great-grandfather fought in World War I , her grandfather in World War II and now she has served in Afghanistan. As her grandfathers before her, she is home. She references their choices:

"We all chose to become soldiers. We all had our reasons for making that choice. I wonder what theirs were. I know mine."

No story about war is an easy one to tell, and Linda Granfield recognizes that hers is a book that children are not likely to pick up and read on their own. Still, her feeling is that they should know the tough stories, be allowed to ask their questions and search for answers that help them understand the past and look to the future. An adult who shares this book will help the children who listen to understand the reality that is war, the pride that soldiers take in serving their country, the bonds that families share, and the impact that wars have on everyone involved:

"Even now, when I'm home, some sounds make my heart thump.
Those sounds take me back to Afghanistan.
And I wonder if John William felt the same thumping and cold sweat
all those years ago."

This book is thoughtfully written and thought-provoking. Brian Deines creates oil paintings that allow readers a feel for the wartime setting, and the pride that soldiers feel for the work they do.

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