by Michael Scotto
First sentence: “Dear Soldier, I’ll bet you weren’t expecting a letter from me, were you?”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the author.
It started out as a school assignment. Felix, in fourth grade, was supposed to write to a soldier in Afghanistan. What he never expected was for the soldier — Lieutenant Marcus Greene — to write back. Thus begins a 7-month correspondence in which we, as readers, learn a lot about Felix — about his life in Pismo Beach, California, his family, and his concerns — and a little about life as an active duty military member.
The thing I liked best about this book was that it really, truly was written for a beginning chapter book crowd. It’s simple, easy to read, but it’s not simplistic. Felix deals with a lot of issues in a way a 10-year-old would: he has kids who pick on him, but instead of confronting them, he avoids them. He idolizes his older brother, Quin, and when Quin decides to join the Army National Guard to earn money for college, Felix takes his concerns to Lt. Greene. He is a curious kid, and Scotto finds a way for us to learn a bit about Marcus and his life without having Marcus be a direct character: we never see the letters and emails from Marcus to Felix. And when Marcus goes missing, not answering his emails, Felix freaks out in a way only 10-year-olds can.
It’s a good, non-depressing way to give kids a glimpse into the military and to address concerns of leaving and fighting and standing up for oneself.