Sunday, June 1, 2014
Book Review: The Fragile Flag by Jane Langton (1984)
This book is very much a story of the Cold War, but though it deals specifically with nuclear weapons, its message can appeal to a much broader audience. At its heart, this is a story about kids banding together to accomplish something none of them could do on their own. The most enjoyable part of the story, for me, is watching the way the kids organize themselves, each one taking on the role best suited to his or her skills and personality. The descriptions of the conditions as the kids walk through heat and rain, and sleep in fields and church halls, make the reader feel as though he or she is right there with them on the march. Especially wonderful are characters like Georgie’s best friend, Frieda, who leads the troops with a clipboard and megaphone and baby Carrington, who rides the length of the march in his little stroller. The story is farfetched, and even the author’s note suggests it might not be wise to try such a feat in real life, but the message that good people coming together can create change is no less powerful for the fact that such a thing might not actually happen.
The Fragile Flag is very different in tone from The Fledgling, and from the books that follow it, The Time Bike (2000) and The Mysterious Circus (2005). Though I have enjoyed the other Hall family books so far, this one was probably the most enjoyable to read, and the one I would be most likely to read a second time. Like most of the other books in the series, The Fragile Flag is out of print, and it’s becoming harder to find in libraries, but I think it’s a really interesting way to introduce young readers to some of the issues of the Cold War and a great read-alike for Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt. Definitely worth a thorough reading if you can find a copy.