Or The Children’s Crusade, A Duty-Dance with Death

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Delacorte Press, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc, 1994, 25th Anniversary Edition

Originally published in 1969

This is one trippy book (and movie – but more about the movie later). Very easy to read – I read it in a day; but not necessarily easy to follow. No, I take that back, it was easy to follow, just not easy to understand at first. The story jumps back and forth through time, following its main character, Billy Pilgrim. Billy has become “unstuck in time.”  In the blink of an eye or a heartbeat he travels at various points in this life, both in the past and in the future. While the story of Billy opens in the 1960s, the reader spends most of the time during World War 2 in the couple of months before the bombing of Dresden, Germany.

Main Character

*Billy Pilgrim, described as “a funny-looking child who became a funny-looking youth—tall and weak, and shaped like a bottle of Coca-Cola.”{pg 22}  He is a bystander in his own life, observing it rather than participating in the events that happen to him.

Secondary Characters

*Edgar Derby, high school teacher, friend of Billy during WW2, shot for absentmindedly claiming a teapot that looked like one at home.
*Montana Wildhack, Billy’s shapely companion in the zoo set up on the planet Tralfamadore where the creatures set up a geodesic dome for them live and be observed in.
*Lazzaro, self-proclaimed enemy of Billy’s during WW2. He promises to kill Billy one day in the distant future, and he actually does.
*Valencia Merble, Billy’s wife who “was rich. She was as big as a house because she wouldn’t stop eating.”
{pg 102}

The book is supposed to be a treatise against war, and it certainly accomplishes that purpose. The time-jumping lends a disjointed-ness to the story, which may what being in a war is like (I’ll never know). At least anyone who has suffered any type of trauma has felt that disjointedness or, disassociation with life at times. Even though the book is easy to read, it is hard to read as well. If you aren’t focused in the beginning or have a short attention span this is not the book for you. The movie is worse – not that the actors do a bad job – it’s just that so much is left out that if you haven’t read the book the movie won’t make a bit of sense to you. I read the book and the movie barely made any sense to me!

I did love the way the author describes Billy’s mom – so classic: “It wasn’t that she was ugly, or had bad breath or a bad personality. She was a perfectly nice, standard-issue, brown-haired, white woman with a high school education.” {pg 97}

Rating: 3 out of 5 paws because it is a classic American novel, it is well written for all it’s trippiness and it does show the horrors of war; however, it is just not a book I will read again.

jack 071115aaReviewer: Jack

Banned book info –

This book was published in 1969 and between 1972 and 2010 it has been banned, challenged, restricted and/or burned  18 times – at least that is the officially reported number. The book isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but everyone – including high school students – should be free to discover that themselves. So it goes. . .

Movie cover & posters


Alternate Covers

             Slaughterhouse-Five  9246791

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