America’s White Table is written by Margot Theis Raven and illustrated by Mike Benny for children of all ages. I was delighted to find a book about this very simple, but deeply meaningful tradition observed by service members for over 35 years. Few civilians are familiar with the symbolism. It seemed the perfect book to share on Veterans Day. Raven tells a moving story, and at the end provides a detailed history of the origin of the White Table and how it became a symbol of caring for our MIA and POW service members after the Vietnam War. Benny’s subdued pastel paintings add to the mood of the solemn occasion that transcends generations.
It is Veterans Day and Katie’s mother has invited her Uncle John for dinner. She explains to Katie and her two sisters that they will be setting a separate little table, just like the ones that will be set in Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy dining halls across America to honor the men and women who have served their country. Mama gets out a white table-cloth, a single empty chair, a white plate, silver ware, a black napkin, an overturned glass, a white candle and a red rose in a vase tied with a red ribbon. She explains the significance of each item on the table, and what it will mean to Uncle John.
Much to Katie and her sister’s surprise, they learn a special story about their favorite uncle from their mother. Uncle John was on a rescue mission in Vietnam when his helicopter was shot down over enemy territory. He was taken as a Prisoner of War (POW). Uncle John found an opportunity to escape and carried his wounded friend on his back to safety. He was a hero.
Katie and her sisters are in awe when they hear the story. Katie stares at the little white table and feels there is something missing. The girls come up with a special idea and surprise their uncle at dinner. Uncle John is moved beyond words by their loving gesture.
This is an outstanding book that will touch the hearts of young and old alike. It is a time to remember and honor those who are not with us.
Copyright (c) 2011, Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved