Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

As I read this book I vacillated back and forth between really loving it and being disappointed. I'm still not sure how I feel! Overall, think the topic of the book, the early days of the Iraq War, is an important one. I like the characters, but would have like to know more about them, especially Robin, the narrator. His character seems to be the least developed of them all...he tells a good story, and we learn a lot about his fellow soldiers, and life in the military, but not much about him. I loved the language in the book. There were passages I found myself re-reading and savoring.

So, why didn't I LOVE the book??? I've been asking myself this all day as I thought about what I was going to post. I think I was disappointed in the military, if you could believe that??!! I couldn't believe how untrained these soldiers were, and how cavalier those in charge were about sending them around Iraq and how much they didn't know about the "enemy." One of the lines that resonated with me was, "...an enemy we can't identify and friends we're not sure about." I wanted more details! I think Myers oversimplified things, like the role of women soldiers. But then I would remind myself that this was fiction, and a book for young adults, so perhaps the author took liberties. At least I hope so. I would hate to think this is really the situation over there!

I think this book would work well for literature circles, perhaps appealing to guys. I would perhaps pair it with Fallen Angels, also by Myers. The reviews call Sunrise Over Fallujah a companion book to Fallen Angels. For those who haven't read it, the uncle Robin writes to is the protagonist in Fallen Angels, which takes place during the Vietnam War.

I also think it would have a place in the social studies curriculum, although it doesn't go into great historical details.

I will stop now, I am anxious to see what everyone else thought.


Dawn said...

Sunrise Over Fallujah was not my favorite book; however, I could see social studies teachers using pieces of it to discuss certain aspects of war. As Kathy mentioned, I wanted more information on many characters. I was disappointed in the end when we did not have closure to the tension that Robin felt with his father. I wanted his father to be proud of him for what he went through. I wanted more information about what he felt after 9/11, and how those emotions led him to the military.

I do feel that students may like reading about the war in Iraq because it is something that they have heard about in the news etc… I think they will like the fact that the book brings in other things they can relate to, like Beyonce’s song “Survivor”. Personally, I just wish that the characters were developed more. The only character that I felt I knew was Jonesy, and I was sad when he died at the end.

Since I do not love Walter Dean Myers, I was not surprised to feel this way about the book. I do wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I read Fallen Angels first. Given the fact that this book is about war, I guess I expected more from it. I wanted it to be a book that I couldn’t put down but found that I was having a hard time picking it up instead. As mentioned above, I do think the book would be valuable to use in a social studies class. It could generate some discussion on what takes place during war.

Maria said...

I was not sure how I was going to feel about Sunrise Over Fallujah because I do not love reading about wars. In the end, I did not love it. I felt the characters were underdeveloped, especially Robin. I felt his character appeared flat affect considering his surroundings and situation. The day by day journal approach became tedious, and, although the idea of being a soldier in the middle of a war should be quite emotional, I felt it fell flat. I liked Jonesy - he was the one character that the reader learned most about and his death was sad being that we knew of his hopes and dreams.

Going along with what Kathy said about the service, I hope that our soldiers are better informed as to what their jobs are and what is expected when they are sent on missions. I couldn't believe how under-informed these soldiers were. Who knows if it is realistic, but my realistic/negative side says that it probably is.

I think the simple story line and easy readability might make it a good choice for a lower level reader.

Kim Seeley said...

When I heard we were reading a book about the Iraq war, I had mixed feelings. At first I sighed because I am just so sick of war, but then I thought I would give it a chance. I think my original feeling was always in the back of my head which prevented me from truly liking the book. How much more war can we take right now? So, I think that swayed my judgement and feelings about the book.

I agree, the character development was very poor. I think that the reading level and ideas would be above my special ed students reading ability. I am interested to see if any social studies teachers would use it in class. I felt the story was very predictable and agree with Maria that the daily diary was torture in and of itself.

I would definitely not recommend this book.

ksalecki said...

The social studies teacher in me really liked the concept of this book; though I agree with everyone else that the character development was very weak, the plot was not as engaging as other books that we have read, and overall I did not feel entertained as I read. It read to me as more of a non-fiction account of the war rather than an historical fiction.
All that being said, I still can see the value of using it in a social studies class. The author was clearly critical of the war and brought up many interesting points and thought-provoking questions regarding what we are doing over there, who we are really fighting, and how inadequately we were prepared to be there. I think it would generate a lot of interesting class discussion on an on event that is in all of our faces, but that we generally know very little about.
Even if students did not read the whole book, there were many good passages and quotes that teachers could pull, which could be used for discussion or journal response purposes. One of my favorite quotes was when Jonesy says to Birdy "Hey, man, we all weird...do you always do drive-bys in the name of democracy." That conjured up very powerful images and questions for me about what our motives and responsibilities really are, and how our actions are perceived by and affect the rest of the world... But, that's just the history teacher in me. *steps off political soapbox*

Elena said...

Well, I have to agree, this book was not my favorite. It just didn't develop in plot or character for me enough, but I have strange taste in that area! I felt the book left me hanging, but at the same time it was so predictable.

Now on a student level, I read this as a read-aloud with my nine year old son, and he loved it. He wanted to understand more fully the text to reality and of course what is happening in the war as we speak. It was very interesting to hear his questions throughout the book (simple questions, such as, "why did the soldiers make some of the decisions that they did?") only reinforcing what many people have made note of: the lack of information and training our soldiers truly receive.

While I liked the thought of this approach, I really don't think I would use this book in my classroom. Perhaps for challenged readers this may be a fantastic pick.

Cherie said...

UGH, I did not like this book either... I never felt an urge to pick it up and read it, however when I forced myself to read, it was not that painful.

I felt that the characters were underdeveloped also. I feel that I needed much more background information on the characters in order to have a stake in the outcome of the book.

I did think that Robins character did a good job of showing the internal emotional turmoil that was raging inside him. His thought on killing innocent people, especially children, made the war seem more realistic for me.

Overall, I have to agree with everyone else (and especially Kim) in saying that I would not recommend this book!

rebeccakryger said...

I am singing the same tune as everyone else, but I did not love this book. I had a hard time buying into the characters, which I find to be true with many Walter Dean Myers books. The characters just didn't seem real, or maybe just seemed to lack depth. Robin's personality, especially in his letters, seemed forced. Toward the end of the novel, it seemed to get a little more interesting, but I had a hard time wanting to read this book.

I also felt this book was too predictable. I asked Dawn (because she was near the end) when I was on page 25ish if something happened to Jonesy because I could already tell that he was doomed.

The pace of the book was very slow--the day-to-day tasks got old although it may be a real representation of what life is like. It just did not hold my attention.

If I had a student that was interested in joining the military, I might recommend this book. The reading level is easy enough for any high schooler; it interest, however, may be lacking.

Rebecca Kennedy said...

I also did not like this book. I found it very difficult to read but, I struggled through and finished because I hate to start a book and not make it to the end.
I found the book to be boring and predictable. The characters lacked personality and I felt at times Robin was saying the same things over and over again. I can see how this book or excerpts from it would be a useful tool in the social studies classroom however, in general I would not recommend this book.

Chris K said...

Sunrise Over Fallujah was a good book, I could see using the book as a supplement in a Global class, perhaps in part in a gen.ed. class or the entire thing as a cross-curricular project for 15:1. I felt that the characters were not developed enough, leaving me to want to know more. The daily diaries, as mentioned by many others were a bit too much. Rebecca is right, if I had a student interested in enlisting I might recommend this book. Not one of my favorites.

Kathy J. said...

From Charlene:

I really liked this book and I think it would be great to read with my students. Some of them have no idea of what veterans have gone through to keep our country free. After reading "Sunrise over Falluhah" I started reading "Fallen Angels". One thing that I questioned, especially in"Sunrise over Falluhah", was how did Walter Dean Myers know about all the things he wrote about? I really needed to be sure that that this was historically accurate and not just total fiction. Fortunately, this was adressed in the acknowledgements. He had knowledgeable readers who shared their insights and experiences with the war in Iraq. These individuals included his son and daughter-in-law. The letters that Robin wrote to his Uncle Richie were somewhat helpful in developing Robin's character. Like Kathy, I thought some of the statements that Walter Dean Myers used were very inspiring and deserving of being read over and over again. I especially liked some of the things Robin said in the last letter to Uncle Richie which he never intended to mail. His thoughts about any real winning of a war is just survival and getting home. When back at home, they will know for sure the things they are living for and hopefully be more thankful for those things. In the very last line, Robin contemplates what he would tell his children if they asked him about the war. Then, he asks the question "are there really enough words to make them understand?"

Kathy J. said...
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