Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

I am so excited that Patricia McCormick is going to speak via Skype with my seventh period class.  Over half of them have read and loved Cut.  I loved it, too, when I first read it.  Since several of my students have been reading other McCormick books after finishing Cut, I wanted to get in on it, too.

First up is Purple Heart (Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins 2009).  Private Matt Duffy wakes up in a hospital in the Green Zone in Baghdad.  He is recovering from TBI (traumatic brain injury) after a too-close encounter with an RPG.  He can’t remember exactly what happened in the alley, but the bits and pieces of memory that surface in his mind hint that something bad happened.  Even though he is questioned about the incident, which left a civilian dead, no one seems too intent on pressing for answers.  He works hard to regain his strength and his memory so that he can rejoin his unit, but once he is released from the hospital, he’s not sure if he’s really ready.  How can he move past what happened in that alley if he can’t even remember what happened?

What I loved about Purple Heart is how McCormick is able to get inside Matt’s head.  As I read, I felt both his strength and vulnerability.  He pushes himself to get stronger so he can get back to being a soldier with his unit.  He wants to be a soldier they can count on.  He wants to know the truth even if the truth is painful.  Through Matt’s eyes, we can begin to see the complexity of the war in Iraq, where there is not a visible difference between the good guys and the bad guys.  Just as the priest who hears confession in the hospital, McCormick shows us Matt’s story without judgement, only compassion.

This story pairs well with the true account of a soldier, Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson, and the Young Hoosier nominee, Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams.  What other stories have you read that deal with war, whether the one in Iraq or other wars?

4 Comments on Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

  1. Carol Satta
    March 24, 2012 at 10:43 am (5 years ago)

    Thanks for the suggested book titles. Always appreciated as I know you have your finger on the pulse of what kids like to read.

    • Mrs. McGriff
      March 24, 2012 at 11:01 am (5 years ago)


  2. Carol Satta
    March 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm (5 years ago)

    Hi Kay,

    Thanks for this review of purple heart. The boys are always requesting “war books.” I’ve put Purple Heart, Ghosts of War, and Bull Rider on my list of books to read.

    Some of my favorite war books include Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers (Iraq), Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam, by Cynthia Kadohata, Rifles for Watie (Civil War), and Under a War-Torn Sky, by Laura Elliott (WWII).


    • Mrs. McGriff
      March 22, 2012 at 7:49 am (5 years ago)

      I get those requests for war stories, too. My students also like Walter Dean Myers’ Fallen Angels, set in Vietnam. They also like Woods Runner (American Revolution) and Soldier’s Heart (Civil War) by Gary Paulsen. I even have a graphic novel version of Red Badge of Courage that is well read, too.


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