cover image America in Vietnam

America in Vietnam

Albert Marrin. Viking Children's Books, $16 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84063-2

Although to Americans, this book's most compelling parts may be the U.S. participation in the Vietnam War, our country's dilemma, particularly the switch from French combat and the antiwar movement (which Marrin seems to view a bit negatively), all of the material within is relevant. The complex narrative deals with many diverse topics--colonialism, opium, Ho, Diem, the administrations of six presidents--but the author's graphic style enables the tragedy of wars of propaganda, ideas and terrorism to emerge. In few books--especially for this age group--is the power of a few in individuals' goals, idiosyncrasies and fears more forcefully portrayed. Several little-known facts flesh out the text: Ho lived in Brooklyn at one time; in the 1950s, the U.S. was already funding 78% of the French army's costs; military planning was done in the White House mostly without generals; some of the war tactics, such as attaching bombs to pigeons' legs, bordered on the ridiculous. Perhaps most important, Marrin brings up intriguing but unanswered questions, many of which are pertinent to today's readers. With the value of acknowledged hindsight, the author negotiates this dense subject in exemplary fashion. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)