The Impossible Patriotism Project

The Impossible Patriotism 9780142413913_p0_v1_s260x420The Impossible Patriotism Project

Linda Skeers, Author

Ard Hoyt, Illustrator

Penguin Young Readers Groups, Fiction, 2009

Suitable for Ages: 4-9

Themes: Patriotism, School, Military Families

Opening: Caleb slumped in his chair. Mrs. Perkins had just announced the class project for President’s Day. “Make something showing patriotism? he mumbled. That was way too hard.

Synopsis:  Caleb is supposed to make create a project that represents patriotism for President’s Day.  The teacher plans to display their work for an upcoming Parents Night. Caleb doesn’t know where to begin. All the other kids have come up with ideas for crafts, poems, maps and costumes. Why should be bother with the project. His dad can’t attend Parent’s Night because he is deployed overseas. He wishes his dad was home to help him. When Caleb begins to think about his dad and what he’s doing for his country, he has an idea for his project.

Why I like this book:

Linda Skeers’ moving story is a timeless message about the men and women who serve our country. It is can be shared with children on President’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veteran’s Day. Caleb’s idea for his project is very heartfelt and creative. The timing of Caleb’s delivery is perfect as he waits until after all the other children have made their presentations, leaving the readers in suspense.  Hoyt’s illustrations are ink and colorful pastels. They capture Caleb’s struggle and his pride at the end.

I also like the story behind the book. The idea for Skeers’ book came to her after she saw a balcony-decorating contest at her nephew’s apartment building. Not able to afford decorations, her nephew, who had just returned from an overseas deployment, hung his service uniform from his balcony with a sign that said: “I served my country.” He won.

Resources: This would be a great activity for children on President’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veteran’s Day.  Ask them to draw a picture, write a poem or write a story about what patriotism means to them.

America’s White Table — Veterans Day

I reviewed America’s White Table for Veteran’s Day four years ago. Every year many people search my website to read about this tradition. I decided I would share it again. Enjoy!

America's White Table14673149America’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 40 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 tablecloth,  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.

Why is Dad So Mad?

Why is Dad Mad9780692420683_p0_v1_s260x420Why is Dad So Mad?

Seth Kastle, Author

Karissa Gonzales-Othon, Illustrator

Tall Tales Press and Kastle Books, Fiction, Mar. 14, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Military Families, PTSD, Anger, Family Relationships, Love

Opening: “Mom. Why is Dad so MAD all the time?”

Kastle Books Synopsis: Why Is Dad So Mad? Is a narrative story told from a family’s point of view (mother and children) of a service member who struggles with PTSD and its symptoms. Many service members deal with anger, forgetfulness, sleepless nights, and nightmares.This book explains these and how they affect Dad. The moral of the story is that even though Dad gets angry and yells, he still loves his family more than anything

Why I like this book:

  • Seth Kastle is a former Army combat soldier who suffers from PTSD following two tours served in the Middle East. I first saw him interviewed about this important book on the NBC Nightly News. 
  • Kastle has written this heartfelt picture book for his two daughters and other military families to help them understand the changes that occur when military members return from war.
  • The story narrative is told from the family’s point of view. The text is simple and straightforward, allowing for many questions and discussions between parent and child. The characters feature a family of lions, which is a gentle and less threatening way to portray a troubled family.
  • Kastle’s book is a labor of love for his family and for service members who want to start a dialogue with their children. There are many changes for military members returning from war and adjustments for the entire family. This book is a valuable resource that can encourage open and honest communications to help families get through some very tough times.
  • Karissa Gonzales-Othon’s illustrations are simply rendered in ink and pastels with a lot of white space. They help the reader focus on the lion’s emotions (angry roar) and his interactions between the lioness and the cubs.

Favorite Lines: “It’s Like Dad always has a FIRE inside his chest.  When he gets mad. The FLAME grows and grows really quickly. When he gets mad. It’s like the FIRE is in control of him.”

Note: Kastle has also authored a book Why is Mom So Mad?, which is scheduled for release in August 2015. He explains that there are very few books that “address the issues combat mothers face when they return to their families.”

Resources: Why is Dad So Mad is an excellent resource for families. First of all it helps children realize they aren’t the reason the parent is angry. The book helps children ask important questions and get answers. Dialogue between parent and child starts the healing process. Follow Seth Kastle at his website and on his Facebook page, Why is Dad So Angry, where there is a wealth of information for military families.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife9780670012091_p0_v1_s260x420The Impossible Knife of Memory

Laurie Halse Anderson, Author

Viking, Fiction, Jan. 7, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 12-17

Themes:  Father-daughter relationship,  Family problems, PTSD, Veterans

Book Jacket Synopsis: “For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road trying to outrun the memories that haunt them both.  They move back to Andy’s hometown to try a “normal” life, but the horrors he saw in the war threaten to destroy their lives. Hayley watches, helpless, as her father turns to drugs and alcohol to silence his demons. And then her own past creeps up, and everything falls apart. How do you keep your father alive when death is stalking him?  What are you supposed to do when your father stops acting like an adult?”

Why I like this book: Laurie Halse Anderson’s heart-wrenching novel sensitively addresses the harsh reality of a family broken by war. Her plot is riveting and realistic. Her characters are well-developed with 17-year-old Hayley, an angry yet fragile teenager, who is dealing with very deep wounds — the death of her mother, abandonment by her father’s girlfriend, and parenting a father who suffers severe PTSD. She has watched her father go from the superhero soldier who made the world safe to the sobbing, raging and alcoholic father that she can’t depend upon. Hayley’s only school friend, Finn, brings some stability to her teenage life and the hope  she can believe in someone. Finn is a quirky character that provides the welcomed comic relief to the story. The book is a timely page turner with an unexpected twist at the end. The Impossible Knife of Memory will resonate with young people, but especially those dealing with parents suffering with PTSD.

Visit Laurie Halse Anderson at her website.

America’s White Table

America's White 9781585362165_p0_v2_s260x420America’s White Table

Margot Theis Raven, Author

Mike Benny, Illustrator

Sleeping Bear Press, Fiction, 2005

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes: Veterans Day, Remembering our fallen soldiers, Symbolism

Synopsis:  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.

Why I like this book:  Once again I am sharing a book I reviewed several years ago before I had following.  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.  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 again 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.

Resource:  Click here to lean how to set America’s White Table.  Also visit Margot Theis Raven at her website.

Hero Mom

Hero Mom9781477816455_p0_v1_s260x420Hero Mom

Melinda Hardin, Author

Bryan Langdo, Illustrator

Amazon Children’s Publishing, Fiction, 2013

Suitable for Ages:  4-8

Themes:  Military Moms, Jobs, Military Families, Pride, Love, War

Opening“Our moms are superheroes.  My mom doesn’t leap over tall buildings — she builds them.”

Synopsis: The mothers in this book are heroes to their sons and daughters.  They fly helicopters, work with dogs to find missing people and dangerous objects, repair aircraft, trucks and tanks, heal patients,  and lead battalions.  They have two things in common.  They are American soldiers and they are moms.

Why I like this book:   This is a very positive and heartwarming book that introduces kids to the subject of what military Moms do while they are away serving our country.  It is very simple and emphasizes how proud the children are of the job their hero parents do to keep us safe.  Melinda Hardin has taken a tough subject of separation and put a positive spin on the subject.   I could easily see a military child taking this book to share at school.  Bryan Langdo’s pastel watercolors are friendly an engaging and capture a feeling of pride in each child.  Hardin also is the author of Hero Dad.  These are two great books to use in the classroom.

Resources:  Have children in class write thank you letters to deployed military soldiers.  All moms  and dads are super heroes.  Encourage the class to draw pictures about the jobs their parents do, regardless of whether or not they are military.  With Father’s Day around the corner, this would be a great activity.  Have children pack care packages for soldiers to show them how much you appreciate what they do.  I know it warms the hearts of soldiers to receive letters and packages from kids.  My grandson received care packages from school children.

Kirkus Review:  “An important message, delivered with effective straightforwardness and an abundance of heart.”

School Library Journal:  “The luminous watercolors make the difficult subject matter approachable for young children.

Hero Dad9780761457138_p0_v1_s260x420

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Remembering Our Fallen

Greg solo_Final_Page_05Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  For one day each year, our entire nation remembers our fallen soldiers.  This post is in memory of our grandson Army PFC Gregory Tilton,  a casualty of war in November 2009.  Our 20-year-old grandson was a boy soldier.   This is my way of honoring and remembering Greg’s loving and gentle spirit.

On this day I like to share information about very important organizations like the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and all the wonderful programs they have for the survivors — the children, siblings, spouses, parents, grandparents and family members — to help them move through the grief process.  When we first learned of our grandson’s death, TAPS was  available to our family.

This Memorial Day weekend, the families of America’s fallen heroes descend upon Washington D.C., to participate in National Military Survivor Seminar & Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors.  They gather in love, to celebrate the lives of their loved ones, share their journeys, learn coping strategies and find comfort in being together.   With the staggering increase in suicides in the military, attending a TAPS program can help with the stigma many loved ones feel.  They are there to support.

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Since I like to focus on healing for children, I want to share more about the USO/TAPS Good Grief Camp Outs for kids.  The camps are designed for kids between the ages of six and eighteen who have lost a parent or sibling who was serving in the military.  The camp outs are three days and two nights.  According to TAPS, they include traditional and military themed camp activities, grief education, and emotional support.   The camp is run by the TAP staff and military mentors.  This camp is the one place where children find comfort in knowing that there are other campers who understand what they are feeling and experiencing.  The kids also participate in fun outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, hay rides, campfires and much more.

This summer there will be four Good Grief Camp Out locations: Fort Bray/Camp Lejeune area, Fort Hood Fort Carson, and Camp Pendleton.   Please check our the TAPS website for more information about the Camp Out dates and registration, and about TAPS in general.  I highly recommend TAPS and the many programs they offer for adults and children.