Jamie Dexter is a 12-year-old girl living on a military base with her father (the Colonel), mother, and older brother T.J. During summer break from school, she volunteers at the base’s rec center in the morning, when there’s not much happening. Private Hollister, who works there, plays endless card games with Jamie, and they become good friends.
The Dexters have always been a patriotic family. But when T.J. breaks the news to the family that he has enlisted in the army, the Colonel does everything he can to convince him to change his mind in the 30 days before boot camp. But T.J. insists on going, and is quickly shipped out to Vietnam, taking his trusty camera with him.
Letters to the family come from T.J., but they don’t really seem to say much about the war. T.J. also starts sending his sister Jamie rolls of black-and-white camera film to be developed. Instead of taking it to the store to be developed, Private Hollister shows her how to use the darkroom to develop the prints. Jamie soon becomes quite expert at film printing. In each batch of pictures, there is always one of the moon. It is a reminder to Jamie that even though they are on opposite sides of the world, they are still looking at the same moon. The other pictures T.J. takes give Jamie a more realistic understanding of what the war is like. And it’s not a pretty picture.
This novel does a good job of showing what it was like to be the younger sibling of a soldier during the Vietnam War. It shows the love, patriotism, and pride that so many families felt, but also the fear that their loved one might not come home. This novel is suitable for anyone 5th grade or older, and is a good summer read, as the book covers Jamie’s summer.