Veronesi, T. (2012). Soul ground photo essay (Kindle edition). United States: Amazon Digital Services.
(After many searches I could not find an original publisher listed, except for the author)
Grade/Ages: 10th Grade and Up
Genre: Nonfiction/Informational (Photo Essay)
Summary: This photo essay is a reflection of the Normandy Invasion during World War II. The text includes photographs of historical, war landmarks of that region and are accompanied by quotes by famous people, mostly Americans, such as Abraham Lincoln concerning the sad and terrifying truth about war.
The term photo essay is used within the title of this text. In reflection of the attributes that describe a photo essay I found that there were equal amounts of photographs and written text, also the text was condensed in order to provoke thoughts and emotions within the reader. Yet, I believe this book is only appropriate for young adults who have prior knowledge of war and the results of war in order for the symbolism utilized in the quotations to be understood. In addition, the topic of war would indicate that this book could be categorized as “social science”, in that it discusses interpersonal relationships of soldiers during a time of war or after. Our class text also discusses bibliotherapy, which I feel is the purpose this book, not only for the reader yet for the author as well. I feel this way because the author uses quotes that would evoke empathy from the reader for soldiers and would help those who have not served in the Armed Forces to understand the terrors that service people see, yet they are committed to doing what is needed to preserve the rights of Americans. Throughout the balance of this blog I will discuss the negative and positive aspects of this photo essay.
When I searched for photo essays on my Kindle, I looked for books that I could draw information from and possibly use in future instruction. Then I found Soul Ground, upon reading the summary I thought that this book would tell a story about soldiers who landed in Normandy during the invasion. I knew this book would not be suitable for younger children; however I was hoping that it may prove useful in middle and high school grades. Once I began reading the book, I became confused. The story did not have a plot or any type of sequence, instead the structure of the story was that it offered a description of war. When considering the authors style of writing, most of the writing was concise and if the reader had a prior knowledge of the results of war, the writing was also clear. Yet, I knew various types of dictions were used as if the author were switching from one voice to another. As well, it seemed that the text was written in free verse, being isolated, unrhymed thoughts that were philosophical. An example would be, “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.” Then, I realized why! When I came to the back matter, and credits were listed I found that the writing in the book was actually quotes from famous historical figures. There were not any photography credits or quote credits listed on the pages. I found this very confusing, because in the Kindle format none of the page numbers corresponded, so I was not even sure who wrote this quote until I did a Google search and found that this quote was said by Ernest Hemmingway. In summary, the quotes in isolation were clear however there were no text features, such as credits or picture captions, to allow the reader to understand why those quotes were used and how they corresponded with the pictures.
I also found this photo essay to be factually inaccurate. My reason being that a few of the quotes used personification, specifically speaking of war as if it were a person or tangible object. I understand the theme of the book; the author wanted the reader to learn that war is savage and cruel especially to those fighting on the front lines. However, the use of personification made obvious that this was not a book of factual information, just opinions. One example, of personification would be, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” This quote was said by Dwight D. Eisenhower. I feel that this author missed a chance to give his book validity, by using quotes that included personification making it historically inaccurate.
One of the indicators of quality informational texts is being able to distinguish between fact, opinion or theory. Once I read the book and figured out that the text was comprised of quotes, I distinguished easily that this book presented opinions. The back matter served its purpose effectively in allowing the reader to see that all of these opinions, in the form of quotes, came from varied individuals. In fact, since the author chose to use quotes from so many; I feel that he did present a variety of perspectives of war. Furthermore, he chose valid people in which to quote from that had experience with war and philosophy. In addition to the three figures I have mentioned, he also included quotes from war heroes such as General Douglas MacArthur, political figures like former President Ronald Reagan and Sir Winston Churchill and philosophers such as Cicero. In total, he utilized quotes from 18 different figures in history. The positive being that he offered thoughts on war from many different perspectives and the fact that he chose historically famous people, gave the opinions offered in his photo essay validity.
The photographs used were also accurate, all being historical landmarks of the Normandy Invasion. Moreover, he utilized a variety of photographs from landscapes to photos of artillery and even portraits of soldiers. Even though the photographs were not captioned, they did serve as a visual of the brutality that happens during war. The photos even portrayed a mood of sadness and loneliness. In many of the pictures there was one subject alone in a field. An example would be the second photograph in the text. It is a picture of one army tank against a clouded sky. The army tank has the appearance of coming toward the viewer, instilling a feeling of fear and anticipation. I feel that since the quotes shared opinions in a philosophical manner, the use of photographs drove home the theme of the book through the mood they portrayed to the reader.
In general, I was not enthused about this book. Not just because it was unsuitable for readers below the tenth grade, yet also the organization. Even though the quotes delivered the theme of the book, text features, in the form of captions and quote credits, were needed so that the reader would understand what he or she was viewing before reaching the back matter.
Since the photo essay that I chose did not include bolded words, I have chosen one of the quotes that evoked emotion within me to consider more deeply. As a result, please see the “So What” strategy presented in a diagram below. I have also included my BIG questions within this diagram.