Dogtag Summer

Elizabeth Partridge, Bloomsbury, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-59990-183-1
This gripping yet tender coming-of-age story reveals multiple nuanced perspectives of the Vietnam War and its aftermath in the summer of 1980. A backfiring school bus triggers a series of flashbacks for sixth-grader Tracy. Partridge (Marching for Freedom) smoothly interlaces memories of Tracy's childhood as a "con lai" (half-blood) in wartime Vietnam, where her American heritage endangered her Vietnamese family, and her present-day life as the adopted daughter of a Vietnam veteran who is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. When Tracy and her best friend, Stargazer—the child of hippie, war-protesting parents—discover a dogtag in her father's ammo box, the event sets off an unexpected chain of events in both families, leading to excruciating memories, painful misunderstandings, and compassionate insights. Partridge delicately portrays Tracy's struggle to reconcile her last, harrowing memory of her biological mother and her relationship with her loving, adoptive mother, who tries to understand the ghostly memories haunting her daughter and husband. Appendixes include interviews in which Partridge addresses historical questions, as well as a teacher's guide for using this book in a curriculum about Vietnam. Powerful historical fiction. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/24/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
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