From School Library Journal
Grade 5 Up-A strikingly illustrated collection of poems with a decidedly anti-war sentiment. The selections, covering conflicts from ancient Persia to modern-day Bosnia, are by a wide variety of poets, from the well known (Tennyson, Whitman, Sandburg, Auden), to the obscure (Anakreon from ancient Greece and 11th-century Chinese poet Bunno), to relatively unknown contemporary poets from all over the world. Most of the poems, however, arise from experiences of the two World Wars. They represent a variety of styles and almost all are shaded by an elegiac mood expressing the misery and horrors of war. Though many of the works can be found in other anthologies, the artwork here enhances them all, even Yeats's masterful "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death." The stark and simple scratchboard drawings are reminiscent of the Ernie Pyle illustrations from World War II and are as memorable as the best propaganda. The poems are easily accessed by three indexes: poet, title, and first line. The only drawback is that, despite the diversity of voices and experiences, the one-sided presentation tends to come off as one-noted and diminishes the power of the individual works.
Herman Sutter, Saint Pius X High School, Houston, TX
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6 and up. With so much attention focused on Spielberg's war movie, Saving Private Ryan, teens will be open to this somber anthology and to the questions the poems raise for each of us. Is war about glory, as in Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" and in the traditional war songs of the Ojibwa? Or is war about horror, as in most twentieth-century poetry? Philip's answer in his fine introduction is that even the poetry about the cruelty of war records the bravery and dignity of soldiers and civilians. As in all noteworthy world anthologies, the meaning is also in the connections across time and place (from ancient China and classical Greece to Hiroshima, Vietnam, and Bosnia), with much in translation from the French, German, Russian, Japanese, and more. At the center are the great World War I poets, many of them soldiers, who saw not the honor, but the futility. A brief note with each poem indicates when it was written and which war it refers to. Wherever they come from, the voices are as plain and recognizable as Auden's Roman Wall soldier who doesn't know why he's there ("I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose"). The book design is spacious and open, with thick paper and clear type, and Michael McCurdy's powerful scratchboard drawings in black and white, some small, some full-page, show the humanity and the ruin of those who came back and those left "hanging on the old barbed wire." Hazel Rochman
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