One of Europe's most acclaimed writers for Children
In identical foxholes, two identical soldiers in khaki uniforms wait to destroy each other. "Every morning, I shoot at him. Then he shoots at me," says one. When he and his enemy both light fires or suffer in the rain, the speaker does not consider their shared hunger and misery. Instead, he consults a manual with a blood-red cover that pits him against "a wild beast... not a human being." When he desperately disguises himself as a shrub to ambush his foe, observant readers notice that a passing "lion" is his equally tired rival, going AWOL. Cali and Bloch (previously paired for I Can't Wait) establish an absurd waiting game worthy of Beckett. Bloch pairs pen-and-ink cartoons with collage elements like family photos, and gives readers a bird's-eye view from which to observe the men's similarities. The point will not be lost on readers. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Gr 4-8-In an understated picture book for older readers, Cali ponders the essence and logic of war from the viewpoint of a lone soldier, isolated from his fellow troops, sitting in his foxhole within sight of his enemy. "Except for hunger, the enemy and I have nothing in common. He is a wild beast. He does not know mercy. I know this because I read it in my manual. It says that we must kill him before he kills us." The man ponders the pointlessness of war, his hesitancy to let down his guard, his fear of being alone. He is tired of sitting in a hole. He waits until the moon is at its smallest, puts on a disguise, and creeps toward the enemy's foxhole. What he finds in there (family photos and a manual like his own) surprises him. What's more, he realizes that he and the enemy, sharing similar thoughts, have traded spaces. He wishes the enemy would do something to end the war, and knows that he must end it himself. Set against stark white backgrounds, black-line cartoon characters, reminiscent of Jules Feiffer's work, are dressed in khaki green. Other items are drawn in the manner of a child's doodles. Tiny touches of red color the soldiers' manuals and people and animals that have been killed. Several photos, pages from an old war manual, and bits of torn paper folded at the edges to represent foxholes, have been added in a few places. Poignant, thought-provoking, and powerful in its frankness and simplicity, this short piece will prompt discussion on war and other means of resolving conflict.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.