Smedley Butler was a colorful U.S. Marine involved in American war exploits from the Boxer Rebellion to World War I. He won two medals of honor for his service, only one of nineteen men in the history of the medal to do so. Towards the end of his career, he became an outspoken critic of the Hoover Administration during the Great Depression, and tried to lend his voice to the veterans of World War I who were suffering and starving in the Great Depression. This graphic novel follows Smedley through a Hooverville in Washington D. C. on the day of a great speech as he talks with veterans and shares stories of his time in battle. The narration is largely told through flashbacks of Smedley and the other veterans of the camp.
Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of Smedley Butler. This novel has shined a light on a time in history that is fairly foreign to me, and I am intrigued by all that Butler accomplished throughout his career in the Marines. While some historical biographies have the tendency to become narrative hi-lights of their historical figures, this narrative avoids that by making Smedley a fully-realized human. He talks for so long with others in the Hooverville that he succumbs to heat stroke and needs to be show where the "chow" is, where he promptly exchanges more stories with veterans around him. The art is riveting, and the battle scenes are true to their nature without being overly graphic.
The publisher of this novel, Dead Reckoning, doesn't seem to have an age rating associated with this title, so I'll have to espouse my own. There are a few cuss words with one F-bomb. The war scenes are devoid of gore, with blood being depicted as a fuzzy redness on the characters. The reading material would be suitable for junior high, but the attention to World War I era heroes may not come until 11th grade history class.
Sara's Rating: 8/10
Suitability level: Grades 8-12
This review was made possible with an advanced reader copy from the publisher through Edelweiss.
Tags: Rating: 8/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Graphic Nonfiction
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