A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that they should be prepared to talk about war, soldiers, weapons, killing, and fear with their children. The message is one of peace, but the problems are those of war.
What's the story?
On the battlefield, two enemy soldiers hide out in opposing foxholes. They shoot at each other each morning, and otherwise sit and wait. After days of hunger and desperate loneliness, days filled with fear of killing and being killed, the narrator soldier crawls over to the enemy soldier's hole, finds him missing, and makes a discovery that convinces him that declaring peace is the only answer.
Is it any good?
For a child who is concerned about war and aware of its guns and weapons, this book with a powerful message could open up an important discussion. Discussions with children about war seem necessary in this day and age, but they are always difficult. We want to save their innocence, keep them unafraid, but yet teach them to live peaceful, productive lives. When should we talk about the actual violence of war in addition to teaching lessons about respecting one another, using words to solve problems, and so on? That is the trickier question.
It does not attempt to address the abstract complexities of war. Instead, its message is simple and unsentimental: all humans, even your enemies, share similar hopes, fears, and feelings. More than likely, they would like the war to end just as much as you would, and for the same reasons. That point is made loud and clear in understated text that expresses the inner thoughts and discoveries of the lone soldier. His sparse words, coupled with James Thurber-like cartoons that are similarly simple, effectively deliver the message that peace is the better option.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the two soldiers, how similar they are, and what keeps them at war. Why do they shoot at each other when they do not even know each other? Why don't they stop? What are they afraid of? What does the soldier see when he goes to his enemy's hole? How does it change the way the soldier thinks?