Book pairing: Beyond Bullets and The Midnight Zoo

Posted on 25 October 2011 Tuesday


War is a topic about which children should not have to read. Yet, presenting this topic in a learning environment may

by Rafal Gerszak with Dawn Hunter; Annick Press

by Sonya Hartnett; Candlewick Press

increase the readers’ ability to have a more caring response to violent situations. Beyond Bullets and The Midnight Zoo are two recent books that examine the consequences of war and deepen our responses to it. While Beyond Bullets is a non-fiction book that presents war from the perspective of those who fight and those who live where the fighting takes place, Midnight Zoo is a fiction book that is about the consequences put upon innocent bystanders.

 Beyond Bullets supplies imagines and reflective text of a third party journalist. We read of the psychological impact felt by soldiers fighting the war and the coping mechanisms that the people of Afghanistan build into their daily lives: the vestiges of a previous war they no longer see and the increased emphasis on dog fighting and other emotional outlets. Women and children are victims whose roles hold a tenuous position in the changing culture. Government and legal structures no longer exist to protect their rights. Outsiders (Americans) are often confused by the ethnic groups in Afghanistan, what they believe in and what their histories are. We see the suffering of marginalized groups.

In Midnight Zoo, the Roma believe themselves to be innocent bystanders. Clearly, this is not their war, yet the Roma become victims. Tomas, Andrej and baby Wilma are Roma children who have lost their family and their home. They used to be able to find protection in their ability to blend in and not be seen but now as three children alone, they find that nothing or no one will protect them, until they find the animals in the zoo. Poor baby Wilma, the infant girl the boys lug around! The boys care for their baby sister but their cruel comments reveal a willingness to get rid of the unnecessary burden that she is. Marginalized.

War is resolving issues with our basic instincts and those who live where the war is fought are forced to live at this basic, survival, level. Unfortunately, those who live where the war is fought are too often victims, members of the 99%, who cannot get out of the way of someone else’s dispute. Pairing these books in a Social Studies, Reading or English class will bring to middle grade readers the real cruelties of war.

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