14 April 2007
Slaughterhouse-Five (or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death)
Author: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
In memory of the recently departed Kurt Vonnegut, here is an excerpt from Slaughterhouse-Five (abridged for the sake of out-of-context clarity) that, I think, would make a wonderfully poignant children's book.
For some context, one of the characters--Billy Pilgrim--turns on the tv and watches a movie about American bombers in World War II. However, because of his unusual circumstance (you have to read the book to understand), he sees the movie unfold backwards--starting at the end and ending at the beginning. Now, a guy watching a TV movie wouldn't necessarily make for a great kid's book... but what he saw would:
"The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks.
When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again."
Paired with the right illustrator (i.e. Bryan Collier of Martin's Big Words or the Marla Frazee from New Baby Train), this would make for a beautiful and powerful picture book... and a fitting testament to Vonnegut's vehement opposition to war.