The Day My Father Became a Bush
Written by Joke van Leeuwen
In this completely offbeat novel, the reader has a chance to learn about all the concerns of refugees. The author is able to give subject a light touch by showing the world through the eyes of a child. Children don’t look at war the same way an adult would.
Toda lives with her father and grandmother on one side of the border. Her mother lives on the other side of the border. As her father prepares to go to war, Toda learns with him about the various ways a soldier can use the landscape as camouflage – thus the title. Her father plans to become a bush and protect himself from the fighting. The fighting closes in on their home, so, for her protection, Toda is sent to live with her mother. But the journey is anything but easy. The bus she’s on makes unexpected stops. People try to adopt her. People helping her get captured. She loses her mother’s street address. But Toda maintains her good humor and realistic view of the world throughout.
The frequent drawings, allegedly by Toda, are whimsical and sometimes reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut. “There was a picture in the book of a soldier who had disguised himself as a bush.” Literacy skills are reinforced by the language barrier created by the border and various other reasons Toda must think about what people really mean. Fourth graders and older readers will cheer for Toda and wish her well.