A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Shows what it's like to be a kid whose parent is away from home fighting a war.
Keep hope alive that your loved ones will come home safe and sound from war. Remember those you love with cards and letters. Try to avoid exposing young kids to war images on television that could disturb them and cause them to worry about loved ones in the war.
Positive Role Models
Little Suzy, the narrator, is strong, positive, and creative. She's also open and honest about her feelings -- her anger when her dad mixes up when her birthday and about his not being there to teach her how to swim and missing the holidays; and her fear and concern that he could be hurt in the war or not come home at all. She's kind to him when he comes home, gets the sense that the war's still on his mind, and tries to show empathy. She delights in returning to their routine of reading their favorite story together. Her mom, grandmother, and siblings all appear to be kind, protective, and supportive.
Violence & Scariness
One page depicts an imagined war scene with images of guns, tanks, airplanes, and explosions.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Year of the Jungle is Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins' autobiographical picture book that recalls how she felt as a little girl in 1968, when her dad was a soldier off fighting the Vietnam War. James Proimos' cartoony illustrations help keep the tone light and upbeat, but there's one page that depicts an imagined war scene (guns, tanks, airplanes, explosions), and little Suzy's fear and concern show when her big round eyes get very, very big. Her dad does come home uninjured, but she remarks in her narration, "He stares into space. He is here but not here. He is back in the jungle." The book offers a moving, kid's-eye view of how war can affect military families. Adults have a strong role to play in how kids understand war and their families' participation in it; the Sesame Street/USO project for Military Families is one resource you might want to check out. See more in our "External Sites" section of this review.
Is It Any Good?
YEAR OF THE JUNGLE is a moving, personal account of how it feels to have a parent off at war when you're too young to understand what war means or how long a year is. Little Suzy is confused and misses her dad terribly, delighting in his postcards and praying for his return, and using her imagination to picture him in the jungle. She's also a regular, smiley kid with a cat, two older siblings, and a friend she draws with.
Collins deftly balances the fear and freakout of a little girl who learns her dad's in danger with the upbeat, optimistic portrayal of a kid going about the business of being a kid. James Poimos' cartoony illustrations are more reassuring and funny than scary. But there's one imagined war scene (with images of guns, tanks, airplanes, explosions), and he clearly expresses Suzy's fear and worry when her eyes get very big, in one case filling nearly the whole page.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.