Lynch, Chris. Casualties of War. (Vietnam, Book 4)
1 January 2013, Scholastic
Beck has enlisted in the Air Force, where his intelligence has helped him learn to fix the airplanes. He is a "ranch hand" and works on a "provider". This means that he goes up in planes and helps distribute Agent Orange in order to defoliate the area, making it harder for the Viet Cong to hide. He is still very concerned about his buddies Rudi, Morris and Ivan who are also fighting in Vietnam. Beck is right at the front lines, and when his division takes some really hard hits, he is sent briefly back to the states for retraining, and then back to another unit to finish up his stay. Morris manages to arrange for all of the friends to meet, but Rudi is "too busy" going on optional patrols to join them, so the friends drive out to where he is stationed. Rudi wasn't successful in school like Beck was; war is the one place that he can shine. How long can the four friends last in country before something horrific occurs?
Strengths: This series filled a very big gap. There are not as many books on Vietnam as my students would like, and all four books give unflinching accounts of what war was like. It was interesting to have each book from a different perspective. No matter what Lynch writes, it's good, but these were especially awesome. Absolutely cannot keep this series on the shelf, and it's what that really needs to be read in order.
Weaknesses: These are not for the faint of heart. People (including a main character) are killed in very graphic and bloody ways.
Raatma, Lucia. The Science of Soldiers
1 January 2012, Compass Point Books
This brief (48 page) book covers a wide range of topics. From nutrition and exercise science to the engineering behind weapons, equipment and food, advancements in technology and how they are related to military operations are covered in an easy-to-understand way. There are lots of things that I didn't know about-- SERE (Survival, evasion, resistance and escape) training, and different technologies used to help soldiers recover from wounds in the field might be topics that even the most well-versed boy interested in the military might not know.
Strengths: I liked that so many topics were covered in one book. This would be a good starting point for further research; I imagine there could be an entire book on camouflage alone.
Weaknesses: Tiny, tiny print. Since this is such a short book, I think some consideration should have been given to increasing the size of the type, since this is crucially important to middle school readers.