It is a heartbreaking time for children to brave a hug and plant a kiss on their mommy, daddy, brother or sister, as they head for deployment overseas. Sometimes they know the routine, because their goodbyes are for second and third times. The children have a tendency to grow up quickly. There are extra chores and responsibilities. They wait for e-mails, letters, and telephone calls. But, it’s important that their main job is to be a regular kid, go to school, and have fun. There are a number of good books published for kids. I hope the ones I’ve selected to review will become a welcomed resource to help children through the toughest times of deployment.
Night Catch, by Brenda Ehrmantraut is a timeless treasure that will help children cope with separation and embrace the power of love that keeps them connected to loved ones. It is written in lyrical rhyme, which works beautifully with the story and illustrations. The illustrations by Vicki Wehrman are breathtaking and magical. The book is for children 3 to 9 years of age.
When a military father is deployed, he creates a nighttime routine with his son to keep their hearts connected while they are so far apart. The father recruits the help of the North Star to play a nightly game of catch with his son. Every night before the son goes to bed, he closes his eyes, and visualizes the North Star, Polaris. His Dad tells him to “Breathe in deep, then blow out hard to send that North Star sailing far….Then close your eyes and have sweet dreams of playing catch amid moonbeams…The star will travel all the night while you are sleeping, tucked in tight.” As the son sleeps, the father goes about his work and patiently waits for his day to end so that he can catch the North Star as he spots it in the night sky, and then send it back to his son. When his tour of duty ends, he blows a final puff of air, boards a plane and races that star home to his son. A beautiful story written to remind us how we all are connected, and to be aware of these connections — even through a game.
A Paper Hug, written by Stephanie Skolmoski and colorfully illustrated by her daughter, Anneliese Bennion, who have both lived through a family deployment. It is a real keeper for military families, and for children 3 to 8 years of age.
The story is about the stressful times that are unique to military families. It follows a father who is notified about an upcoming deployment overseas. What makes this book a tad bit different, is the author involves the child in every stage of preparation for the father’s deployment. The great thing about this book, is that it emphasizes the importance of expressing emotions — that it is okay to cry and be angry. The mother and son search for special items to pack for Dad, so that he can remember them while he is gone. The child comes up with a special gift for his dad — a paper hug. There are instructions on how to make a paper hug, along with a poem that your child can include. I applaud the author for such a creative and special idea for families. The message is empowering.
The Invisible Strings, is written by Patrice Karst and illustrated by Geoff Stevenson. The book is for children 3 to 8 years of age, who have been separated from a parent because of a deployment, or have lost a parent or loved to death.
This book is among my favorites, because it delivers a heartwarming and compelling message to children that they are never separated from a loved one. This is because “people who love each other are always connected by invisible strings made of love.” And these strings reach all over the world from heart to heart and remain forever. I really appreciate the message in this book because it is more about love than separation. It is also introduces a beautiful visualization technique for kids.