America at War, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn
The world again is in more turmoil and I remembered this book, as Lee Bennett Hopkins says not “about” war, but about the poetry of war. The book is divided into eight sections, from the American Revolution to the Iraq war. And now it’s just been told on the news that we are again sending soldiers to that country. The book is a beautiful compilation of more than fifty poems, with illustrations in a folk art style, mostly symbolic. Here are some lines I loved.
~ of a boy sent to fight for freedom in our Revolution: “Until the boy went, rubbing dreams from his eyes” Stanley Young
~a letter from a boy in the Civil War: “This war thins mothers’ sons to skeletons./But hold on Pa, read them survivors’ names./I aim to be amon ‘em.” J. Patrick Lewis
~from World War I, a well-known poem, still heart-breaking: “In Flanders Field the poppies blow/Between the crosses row on row” John McCrae
~from the women in World War II who knit for their loved ones: “Silent prayers/In woolen stitches.” Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Others respond to the Korean War, the Persian Gulf War, and the Iraq war—so many in our young country’s history.
For students already touched in some ways by their families or friends, or for those who hear the news today and wonder, I imagine that this book can be used by those teaching that poetry can show the facts of war in different ways from textbooks, show the emotions of war, although based in truth.