12 November 2007

Veterans Day Flashback: Slaughterhouse Five

14 April 2007

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.



Unknown said...

The nice thing is that this could potentially work for other Vonnegut works. For instance in The Sirens of Titan Constant would be rewarded for all of his hard work and heroism in the Martian war with a life of luxury on earth. Granted there are lots of other weird things that might not be good for kids, like abandoning your children and other misdeeds but on the whole i think it is a good long parable. I also think that kids would love Rumford and his dog as they are stuck in the infundibulum. Its a Dr Seuss word if i ever saw one.

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