Review: War and Watermelon by Rich Wallace

June 8, 2011 Review, Viking, YA 7

Reading level: Ages 9-12 (Jenn’s opinion: 12 & up)
Hardcover: 184 pages
Publisher: Viking Juvenile; 1 edition (June 9, 2011)
Source: Publisher

It’s the summer of 1969 (yes, Bryan Adam’s song definitely comes to mind). Twelve year old Brody is spending the summer before starting junior high as most kids did at that age: swimming at the local pool, listening to music on the radio and hoping for more playing time on the football team.  Around him, however, the world is changing. We’ve just landed on the moon, the Mets start their trek to the World Series.

But most importantly, the Vietnam War is raging on. His older brother, Ryan, is just weeks away from reaching eighteen years old and at risk for being drafted to go to war.  Ryan battles with their father on a pretty continuous basis: he doesn’t want to be forced to go to college in order to avoid being drafted, but he also doesn’t believe in the war, as many did during this time period.

 It’d be different if the war was over here,” Ryan says.  “If they were tyring to kill Mom or Brody or Jenny.  I’d be the first in line then.  But I ain’t about to get ambushed over in that swamp…get bayonet stabbed between my ribs.  Why in the hell are we even over there?”

When Brody joins Ryan on a trip to upstate New York for this amazing live concert called Woodstock, he suddenly becomes aware of the real world around him.  People are dying in a war they don’t believe in, a war that could take his older brother away.  Brody is already at a pretty difficult and trying age for a young boy and being forced to deal with the potential reality of losing his older brother to war is pretty frightening.  Through Brody’s voice, the reader relives the summer and fall of 1969, a truly challenging time in America’s history.

Brody writes to to detail & express his feelings:

Woodstock Flock
Not to battle
All night long
Past barns and cattle
To hear a song

With my brother
With thousands more
To hear another
Against the War

When I heard about this book, I was drawn to it for some reason. I didn’t grow up in the late sixties, I wasn’t born until nearly a decade later.  What drew me to this book was Brody’s story.  I feel compelled to read coming-of-age stories, especially those involving young boys.  I myself have two young boys, one nearing Brody’s age.

It was my intent on reading this book along with my oldest son, John.  The publisher lists the age range from 8-12 years but I tend to disagree.  The subject matter, in my humble opinion, is more appropriate for 12 and above.  There is mild language, talk of beer and smoking pot, and while my son & I have open discussions about these topics, I just didn’t find it appropriate for the age range for which it is “advertised.” Therefore, I believe this book would be more suited for the higher end of the middle grade age range or the lower part of the YA age range, around the 12-15 age range.

That said, I do think this is a book that should be read by young adults, and adults as well, frankly.  It is a completely honest and engaging look at a critical part of our nation’s history.  Don’t let the subject matter cause you to believe this is a dark and depressing book; since we are experiencing it through a teen boy there is a great deal of levity and humor.  Bottom line: Recommended.

Thank you TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Learn more about this book and the author & check out the other blogs on this tour on the book’s blog tour page.

7 Responses to “Review: War and Watermelon by Rich Wallace”

  1. carol

    Sounds like an interesting look at an important time in our history. Thanks especially for you age recommendations. As the mother of an 11 year-old, sometimes it’s hard to know if the publisher’s listed ages are accurate.

  2. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
    Twitter: age30books

    I’m glad you pointed out that it might not be appropriate for the younger age group – I think that’s important to know before you hand this book off to a young boy. That said, it sounds like a great read!

    Thank for being on the tour Jenn.

  3. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I was a little young to understand everything about the Vietnam War, but I do remember it, so this book sounds really good to me.

  4. Pam (@iwriteinbooks)

    Wow i really like the concept behind this even if it needs to be labeled for kids a little bit older. I don’t think that there are nearly enough historical fiction YA books based around the 60’s (one of MY favorite time periods to read/learn/talk about!) so this is really calling to me. Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention!

  5. subimal

    History is my all time favorite subject. Moreover I’m very much attracted to read books on history of America after I came across Roots of Alex Haley. What a riveting anecdote it is. I must read this book of Rich Wallace as soon as I can. Thanks