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When twelve-year-old Jamie Dexter's brother joins the Army and is sent to Vietnam, Jamie is plum thrilled. She can't wait to get letters from the front lines describing the excitement of real-life combat: the sound of helicopters, the smell of gunpowder, the exhilaration of being right in the thick of it. After all, they've both dreamed of following in the footsteps of their father, the Colonel.

But TJ's first letter isn't a letter at all. It's a roll of undeveloped film, the first of many. What Jamie sees when she develops TJ's photographs reveals a whole new side of the war. Slowly the shine begins to fade off of Army life - and the Colonel. How can someone she's worshipped her entire life be just as helpless to save her brother as she is?

From the author of the Edgar Award-winning Dovey Coe comes a novel, both timely and timeless, about the sacrifices we make for what we believe and the people we love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781436148665
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 07/22/2008
Age Range: 10 - 13 Years

About the Author

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Dovey Coe, which won the Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award; Where I’d Like to Be; The Secret Language of Girls and its sequels The Kind of Friends We Used to Be and The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far Away; Chicken Boy; Shooting the Moon, which was awarded the Christopher Medal; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; Falling In; the critically acclaimed The Second Life of Abigail Walker; Anybody Shining; Ten Miles Past Normal; Trouble the Water; the Sam the Man series; and The Class. She lives with her family in Durham, North Carolina. Connect with Frances online at

Read an Excerpt


The day after my brother left for Vietnam, me and Private Hollister played thirty-seven hands of gin rummy, and I won twenty-one. They were speedball games, the cards slapped down on the table fast and furious. My brother, TJ, was going to war, and I was fired up hotter than a volcano. TJ and I had grown up in the Army, we were the Colonel's children, but that was not the same as being a soldier in the very heart of combat.

"Whoa, hoss, slow down," was the first thing Private Hollister said when I'd charged into the rec center that morning, ready for action, but not exactly knowing what to do with myself. I'd been a rec center volunteer for three whole days, which had mostly involved picking up crumpled Coke cans from under the pool tables and handing out Ping-Pong paddles to soldiers. But now I couldn't settle myself down enough to go check the chore list on the clipboard Private Hollister kept on his desk. I wanted to spin around in circles, do jumping jacks, drop to the floor for a hundred push-ups. Big things were happening, and the excitement of it all was running through my veins and winding me up tight.

"Here. Sit." Private Hollister pulled out his desk chair and motioned for me to take a seat. "You got the look of a girl who don't know whether she's coming or going."

He sat down across the desk from me. "You ever play cards? 'Cause back home in Kentucky when we'd get too rowdy, my mom would get out the cards and get us playing poker or Hearts, just anything to make us sit down for a few minutes and relax."

I nodded. All at once my excitement had found a place to land. I took a deep breath to calm myself and tried to look innocent, like a girl who maybe played Old Maid or Crazy Eights from time to time.

"Well, then, reach into that top desk drawer and pull out a deck of cards. You know how to play gin rummy?"

I nodded again. "I think so," I said, sounding doubtful. As a matter of fact, the Colonel had taught me how to play gin when I was six and there was no one alive who could beat me two games in a row. But I kept a straight face as Private Hollister explained the rules to me, told me about runs and knocks and how to keep score.

Private Hollister leaned forward and picked up the cards. "I'll go ahead and deal first, just to get us started. You think you understand how to play?" "I'm pretty sure," I said. "Just tell me if I mess up."

He smiled. Private Hollister had the face of a ten-year-old, about a thousand freckles across his nose, sticking-out ears, eyelashes like a girl's. It was hard to believe he was a grown man. But looking around at the soldiers playing pool and pinball, it was hard to believe any of them were full-fledged adults. They all looked like TJ, barely five minutes out of high school.

"So what's got you so full of beans today, anyway?" Private Hollister asked, shuffling the cards. "Or are you always this way and I just ain't noticed it yet?"

I swayed in my seat, the excitement rearing up in me again. "My brother just left for Vietnam. He's going to be a combat medic for the 51st Medical Company. He's the third generation in my family to join the Army. I'd join too, if they'd let me."

"How old are you, anyway? Eleven? You think they let many eleven-year-olds enlist?"

"I'll be thirteen in December," I told him, sitting up as straight as I could so maybe I would look old and mature. Not that I cared what people thought about my appearance. But even if I wasn't pretty in an obvious way, if my hair was just-barely-blond instead of a golden yellow, if my eyes were gray instead of blue, even if I was as scrawny as a bundle of twigs, there was no doubt in my mind I looked at least twelve and a half. "In fact," I said to Private Hollister, "my mom's due date was in November, only I came later than they thought I would. So I'm closer to thirteen than my birthday would have you believe."

"Oh. Well, you look eleven. I got a sister back home in Kentucky who's eleven, so that's how I know." Private Hollister began dealing. "You really a colonel's daughter?"

"Yep." I didn't want to sound snobbish about it, but I didn't want to sound so friendly that he thought it was okay to mistake me for an eleven-year-old.

"Full bird?"

I nodded.

"Man, oh man." Private Hollister shook his head. "I better not mess up around you. I might find myself in-country too."

"In what country?"

"Vietnam. That's what they call it when you're there. They say you're in-country. But me, I want to be way, way out of country, if you know what I mean."

I shook my head in sheer disbelief. "You're a soldier. You're supposed to fight."

Private Hollister put down the deck, picked up his hand. "Maybe," he said. "But from what I've heard, I'd rather be here than there. No offense to your brother."

"Actually, he wasn't planning on going," I said, fanning out my cards to see what hand I'd been dealt. "He was supposed to go to college. But then he changed his mind. You want me to start?"

"Yeah, go ahead." Then Private Hollister cocked his head to one side and raised an eyebrow, like what I'd said just hit him. "Your brother could've gone to college, but he went to 'Nam instead?"

I discarded, picked up a card from the top of the deck. "I guess he got his priorities straight."

"Man, oh man, giving up college for a chance to dance with a Bouncing Betty. One of them things falls at your feet, whammo! It blows right up in your face." Private Hollister shook his head sorrowfully, discarded, drew a card.

I picked up his card, discarded, rapped my knuckles against the desktop. "Knock."

Private Hollister practically fell out of his chair. "You're knocking? How can you be knocking already?"

"Beginner's luck, I guess." I spread out my cards on the desk, a run of five, seven of diamonds through the jack, plus a pair of threes and a pair of queens.

"You scammed me!"

"I don't know what you're talking about. Just give me your cards and let me deal."

Then it was one hand after another, cards slapping, knuckles knocking, and me staying ahead the whole way through.

"All right," Private Hollister said when game thirty-seven was over. He looked at his watch. "I think I've gotten you calmed down enough. You ready to do a little work?"

"Combat ready," I told him.

Private Hollister laughed. "You're Army all the way, ain't you?"

"I'm Army through and through," I told him. "I mean it, if they'd let me go to Vietnam tomorrow, I'd go. I could be an ambulance driver or something like that."

"You even know how to drive a car?"

"Of course I know how to drive a car," I lied. "I've been driving since I was eight. We were stationed in Germany then, and in Germany they let anybody drive who can see over a steering wheel."

Private Hollister stood up. "Now I know you're lying. You gotta be eighteen to drive over there. That's a fact."

I shrugged. "Must be a new law."

"Well, you might want to go to Vietnam, and you might be happy about your brother going to Vietnam," Private Hollister said, walking to the supply closet. "But I know your mom ain't happy about it."

"My mother is an Army mom," I said. I took the broom he handed me from the closet. "She knows that wars have to be fought and we need soldiers to fight them."

"What you're talking about is philosophy," Private Hollister said. "I'm talking about feelings. Ain't no mother happy about her son going to war."

"She'll be happy when we win," I told him.

Private Hollister looked skeptical. "If you say so."

"I don't just say so. I know so."

And I did know so. I knew it like I knew my name: Jamie Dexter. I knew it like I knew my birthday: December 10. I knew it like I knew the flag: fifty stars, thirteen stripes, red, white, and blue, all in all a piece of cloth worth going to war for.

I was six months away from turning thirteen and I thought I knew everything.

Copyright © 2008 by Frances O'Roark Dowell

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Shooting the Moon 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My 11-year-old son needed help on the historical aspects - but was totally enthralled with the characters and story. We read it together and it was excellent. Great for history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book in the world. I have read at least 10times. The best ever
star1021 More than 1 year ago
One of the best war books I ever read. It touched me like must war books don't.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good
tinkdust21 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book and the rich characters that Dowell developed. The main character is one that kids will relate to well. The only thing that kept me from rating this higher is that the ending feels very rushed and thrown together so it isn't as satisfying as one would hope.
NMkimdykstra on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Personal Response:I loved this book. I got the audio book version for a cross country road trip with my dad because I thought he would be interested in the Vietnam era theme. However, I absolutely fell in love with this book. In my opinion, it is just such a sweet story, and it now ranks up there with "Penny from Heaven" as one of my favorite middle school level books.School/Library Uses:I really haven't encountered a lot of fiction books about the Vietnam War for this age group, I think this would be a great addition to a unit on the subject. Also, this would be a good book to use for a book discussion group in a school library or public library setting.
shelf-employed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Atheneum has another great book and Junior Library Guild selection in Shooting the Moon, the story of twelve-year-old, Jamie Dexter whose brother is about to leave for Vietnam. This is another historical fiction novel; this one taking place during the Vietnam War. Jamie is an Army brat. Her father is a Colonel, her mother is a dutiful and cheerful Army wife, and her older brother, TJ, has just enlisted. For a child born on a German Army base and raised on a steady diet of hooah and little green army men, life could not be much better. But as she volunteers at the base rec center and learns to develop the rolls of film arriving steadily from her brother, she begins to realize that life and love and war are more complicated than the "Army way" had taught her to believe.Shooting the Moon, (reflecting her brother's penchant for taking photos of the moon), is a slow and thoughtful look at a difficult period in US History. Neither irreverent, nor uber-patriotic, Shooting the Moon can be read quickly, but will not be easily forgotten.
sgranier on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Booktalk: In 1969, as the Vietnam war continues, Jamie, 12-year-old daughter of Colonel Dexter, Gung-ho commander at Fort Hood, is ecstatic when she learns that her 17-year-old brother TJ has signed up for the Army upon graduation. Surprisingly, her "Hoo-ah" father does not agree with his son's choice and tries to convince his son to change his mind. Despite his father's objections, TJ continues on his original course and after boot camp, he is shipped to Vietnam. Jamie looks forward to his letters from Vietnam, but instead, he sends her rolls of undeveloped film. Through these photos, Jamie begins to see that real war is messier than the war games she and TJ played as kids. When 19-year-old Private Hollister, Jamie's friend from the base rec center, may be transferred to Vietnam, Jamie has to decide if she will use her influence with her father to keep Hollister out of the war.
melodyreads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brother goes to Vietnam, and he does return. This story is about his little sister, and how she changes her opinions as she develops the film that her brother sends home and prints the pictures. Good story.
momccarthy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Twelve-year-old, Jamie Dexter's brother, TJ, is about to leave for Vietnam. She is so envious that he gets to live out her dream of exciting military engagement. As an army brat, daughter of a Colonol, Jamie has played army forever. The story revolves around TJ's way of letting Jamie know what war is about. Still at home, Jamie learns a number of lessons on growing up, using her brain, caring for her family.
jen.redmini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jamie Dexter has been raised in the Army. The Colonel, aka Dad, has raised Jamie and her older brother, TJ, in the ways of the Army. All is well, until Jamie's brother enlists. Then we find out the Colonel's real feeling about this way of life.Meanwhile, Jamie keeps receiving packages from TJ. These packages are disappointing... no letter, no description of the combat, just a roll of film. Jamie must learn how to develop the film in order to receive her brother's message. Surprisingly each roll has a shot of the moon. Find out what Jamie discovers through the film, what happens to TJ during the war, and what's up with the pictures of the moon... read Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell.
millme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written story. Different view of the Vietnam War.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Army brat Jamie Dexter finds out her big brother TJ has been sent to Vietnam to fight, she's ecstatic. Her father, The Colonel, has raised Jamie and TJ to support the army way and to take pride in fighting for their country. Jamie declares that if she was allowed to enlist, she would immediately do so. Since she can't go fight, Jamie looks forward to her brother's letters. She's sure they're going to be filled with all the action and adventure going on at the front, so she's surprised when TJ sends her a cannister of film and asks her to develop it for him. Puzzled, Jamie learns to develop film and soon TJ sends more and more cannisters. As Jamie begins to get a look at what's going on in Vietnam, the things her brother can't write home about, and as Jamie befriends an army private who works in the rec center, she begins to change her opinion about the war. The ending seemed really abrupt and although I appreciate the fact that it wasn't completely depressing, it seemed like it tied things up a bit too neatly. I thought it was interesting to see Jamie's perception of the war and of her father change throughout the book.
horomnizon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A children's book about the Vietnam War? Yes, absolutely - one that every child should should be added to curriculum right now (let's say around 5th grade or so). While the story takes place on a military base and from the perspective of a young (almost 13) girl, it is a story about war and about the perception of war. While Jamie and her brother grew up playing with toy soldiers in their yard, their Colonel father is less than thrilled that his son has enlisted and will be going to Vietnam. When letters come for her parents, Jamie receives rolls of film from her brother. She learns from another soldier how to develop the film and begins to see what war is really about - through the lens of her brother, a medical technician. She learns about her father and herself through these discoveries. While the ending may seem a little bit quick to tidy things up, Jamie trying to understand what her brother is saying through the pictures is masterful. So is her attempt at friendship with another girl whose brother is also deployed. All in all, an excellent story that reminds us that war is not just a game that young children play. Unfortunately, a lesson that too many learn in too serious a fashion.(A note that I did not find the book in any way disrespectful to soldiers. The opinion expressed about Vietnam was that at that time, the American troops should have been gone - they had done all they could.)
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21kathleend60 More than 1 year ago
I read this book for school and it was a little dull in the beginning and Took a white to get to the climax. I still don't have a very good understanding of why it's called shooting the moon. In my opinion, it should be called Pictures From The War or something like that. But it was very good at the end!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I personally loved this book. It was a very quick read, since it was only 89 pages. But i think this is a good book if you like books that kinda has no plot and goes through memories, emotions, and stories. It is sad, but thats probably because i cry at every book ever. Dont hesitate to read this if you are thinking of reading it. Its really amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had like no plot. All it was was she jus did the picturesand sent them back
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Five stars
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So touching