A Soldier’s Sketchbook

Hardcover $30.00

National Geographic | Nov 01, 2011 | 304 Pages | 8 x 10 | ISBN 9781426208171

  • Hardcover$30.00

    National Geographic | Nov 01, 2011 | 304 Pages | 8 x 10 | ISBN 9781426208171


“A remarkable new book.” –Newyorker.com (Book Bench blog)
“Farris, best known postwar as a cartoonist for the New Yorker, offers this evocative memoir-album, with a scrapbook graphic design. Replete with faux-yellowed pages, it chronicles his tour of duty using his contemporary illustrations, his letters to his Connecticut family, and present-day reflections on the attitudes and fears of his innocent 19-year-old self. With meticulous National Geographic maps tracking his regiment’s advance through France and Germany, Ferris’ is an honestly written, visually captivating volume and a superb addition to the genre of WWII artwork.” –Booklist
“Members of the “Greatest Generation” will enjoy the postcard from the front … an Everyman story told in letters, sketches, photographs and memorabilia, at once charming, naïve and wise.” Mysanantonio.com

Author Q&A

Q&A with Joseph Farris, author of “Soldier’s Sketchbook”

Q: Your parents saved hundreds of letters and illustrations that you made during the war. Why did you decide to publish them now, more than 60 years later?
A: I didn’t plan to publish them. I hadn’t revisited the letters and drawings in almost 60 years — I couldn’t get myself to — but around 2004, I realized I was nearing the inevitable end of my life and decided to  make a scrapbook for my family so that they would know what I went through.   Susan Hitchcock [the book’s editor], who is my sister-in-law’s step-daughter, happened to be visiting and when I showed her the scrapbook, she said it should be published.  To my great and delicious surprise, it has.

Q: Was art therapeutic for you during the war? How so?
A: I drew because I always drew, long before I went into the army. Since I enjoyed drawing, it might be considered therapeutic, but it was  just a natural source of communication for me.

Q: Do you have a favorite cartoon from your time serving overseas?
A: Perhaps the corny cartoon, shown in the book, that appeared in the service newspaper The Stars and Stripes. It was my first and only published work at that time.

Q: You’re a cartoonist, and a funny guy! How were you able to maintain that sense of humor during the war?
A: Of course I wasn’t  a cartoonist or anything else at that time, since I had just graduated from high school. I was quite a serious  person  and my sense of humor started to blossom, I suspect,  to counter the fears and horrors of war.

Q: With email and Facebook, it’s now much easier for soldiers abroad to communicate with home than it was when you went to war. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage for today’s soldiers?
A: I imagine it’s a mixed blessing. It’s wonderful to see and hear from your loved ones but I wonder if it makes homesickness greater and the contrast between the home front and the war zone almost unbearable.

Q: What do you hope the children and grandchildren of WWII veterans will learn from reading your letters?
A: I hope they will have a greater understanding of what the word “war” means. It’s not a fun adventure. It should be an absolute last solution to solving problems.  

Q: Do you have any advice for children who want to talk to their grandparents about their experiences during the war, but aren’t sure how to bring it up?
A:  Some veterans I know find it extremely difficult to converse about their war experiences and I have always respected their reticence. It may be too painful for them to return to that part of their life.  A child might tell their grandparents of their interest in that seminal event and perhaps open an avenue for the veteran to share their memories.

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