This week we focus on our Veterans, active troops, and war.  As a reminder of the sacrifices faced daily by our troops and their service to our country, the following books commemorate men and women serving in the armed forces, as well as those who served in the past, and under the conditions of which they fought.

 Product Details  Papa’s Backpack by James Christopher Carroll

This recently published picture book takes a gentle, allegorical look at a parent going to war. When Papa has to “go away for a while,” his cub imagines going along with him, facing adversity together. With gorgeous illustrations and poetic language, the book meditates beautifully and movingly on the sadness of any separation.

Product Details Coming Home by Greg Ruth

In this nearly wordless picture book, a boy searches for his mother in the crowd of returning troops. As he looks, he witnesses joyful reunions between soldiers and their various family members. The pacing is perfect, the illustrations wonderful, and the conclusion very, very touching.

 

Product Details Product Details  Hero Mom and Hero Dad by Melissa Hardin

In these two books, children of different ethnicities compare their parents in the military to superheroes. For example, one child describes her mother, depicted as a medical helicopter pilot: “My mom doesn’t fly in to save the day-well, sometimes she does.” More literal than Papa’s Backpack and more specific than Coming Home, Hardin’s books are helpful for children who are trying to explain and understand what their military parents do when they go away.

 wall  The Wall by Eve Bunting

A boy and his father make a pilgrimage to Washington D.C. to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Their goal is to find the name of the boy’s grandfather on the wall. They meet other people leaving flags and other items to remember their loved ones who fought and died. It is a moving story of honoring men and women who served their country.

 Product Details Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco

Caution: tear-jerker.
Really. Strangers and Union soldiers form an unlikely bond during the American Civil War. Sheldon Curtis (Say), a white boy from the North, becomes injured as he flees his unit. Now a deserter and lost somewhere in the deep South amid Confederate troops and marauders, he is discovered by fellow serviceman and former slave, Pinkus Aylee. Pink for short.  Knowing that Say will face certain execution without his help, Pink makes his way back home with the injured Say. Pink’s mother nurses Say back to health. In a moment of comfort, Pink shares that he has met President Abraham Lincoln, and even had the chance to shake his hand. He shakes Say’s hand, noting that the boy can now say that he shook the hand that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln. But of course, the new friends are discovered by the Confederates, and the story turns from touching and enlightening to intensely dramatic. The pair are shipped off to Andersonville Prison, notorious for unhealthy living conditions that caused illness and frequently death among the residents. In prison, they are separated, their fates very different. For although both soldiers fought on the side of the North, racism permeates the inequitable treatment of these two prisoners.  This story is based on a story told to author Polacco by one of her ancestors. And yes. She touched the hand that touched the hand that touched the hand of Abraham Lincoln.

 Product Details
In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by  John McCrae by Linda Granfield

Canadian soldier and poet John McCrae wrote  In Flanders Fields to commemorate his friend Alexis Helmer, who died at at the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium during World War I, where the two men were soldiers together.  McCrae remarked on the abundant poppies growing near the battlefield.  The flower became a symbol of Veterans’ Day, thanks to McCrae’s poem.

 

 Product Details Nurse, Soldier, Spy : the Story of Sarah Edmonds by Marissa Moss

Frank Thompson was a runaway from Canada. When the U.S. government put out the call for men to join the military during the Civil War, Frank was eager to support the Union troops. One problem: Frank was really Sarah Edmonds, a young women who put on trousers and cut her hair to avoid an arranged marriage in Canada. Frank was rejected on his first try to join the Michigan Volunteer Regiment. His lack of even the start of a beard caused the recruiter to think he was too young to join. A month later more men were needed. This time Frank was accepted. Private Frank Thompson was a skilled soldier, outshooting and outriding the others in his company, and comfortable living with a large group of men. The soldiers in his regiment teased him for his small size, calling him “Our Little Woman.” Little did they know the truth of their nickname! Read about the amazing career of Frank Thompson and how his small stature gave him the opportunity to serve his country as a spy. Also, did Frank ever become Sarah again?

 0-545-27029-4  I Pledge Allegiance: Vietnam Book One by Chris Lynch

Each book in this series focuses on a different one of four best friends and a different branch of the military, with a fifth as a sort of wrap-up. The first one follows Morris in the US Navy, aboard the USS Boston. From the Boston, Morris seeks to not only survive the horrors of the Vietnam war, but also keep his friends safe from danger. This book is not for the light of heart. Chris Lynch does not pull punches about the brutality of the war. But it’s a truthful portrayal of the war and would be great for many middle schoolers and up. Will the four survive? If they do, will they be the same as before?

 shooting the moon  Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Also set against the backdrop of Vietnam, twelve-year-old Jamie has grown up on military bases with a father she and her brother both call “The Colonel”. She’s therefore very excited when her older brother ships off to Vietnam to follow in the military footsteps. Her parents, however, clearly disapprove, much to Jamie’s surprise. She almost immediately starts to learn why, though. T.J.’s ‘letters’ home are not what Jamie expected. They contain rolls of film focusing on not only the moon – T.J.’s favorite subject – but also the terrors and tragedies of war. Adding to that Jamie’s growing friendship with some of the other soldiers on the military base – and her father’s growing unhappiness – and she starts to realize that maybe war is not nearly as glamorous as she always grew up believing.

 UNBROKEN  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (adapted for Young Adults)

Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini and most of us have probably heard of it. Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller also went on to become a film and the story has captivated even those who have not yet read or seen it. Just this year, Laura went back and adapted Louis’ story for a younger audience, seeking to reach those who might find the adult version a little too much to take. Louis was an Olympian athlete who joined the air force during World War II. Eventually shot down, he survived being a castaway until captured by the Japanese and brutally treated for the remainder of the war. It’s not an easy story, even in a shorter, less explicit form, but it’s a true one that speaks to the very heart of being human.

soldiers soldiers, survivors, and storytellers talk about war edited by Marc Aronson and Patty Campbell

soldiers, survivors, and storytellers talk about war is a though-provoking set of stories, memories, blogs, news articles, poems, essays and a play for young adults about the experiences military men and women encounter while serving in war zones. The book is divided into the topics of  “Deciding about War,” “Experiencing War,” and “The Aftermath of War.” It is a very powerful book that gives you all perspectives of military service during wartime.