With thanks and recognition to veterans and their families:
Tucky Jo and Little Heart, written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco published in 2015; a Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Master storyteller Patricia Polacco brings us this moving account of an extraordinary World War II infantryman, told “as nearly as [she] can in his own words.”
Johnnie Wallen is a stringbean of a young fella from Kentucky, and just shy of the age required to join up with the army when the United States enters the war in 1941. His parents fib to help him enlist, and soon Johnnie is on an enormous ship heading for the South Pacific.
Johnnie experiences such terrible warfare with his unit until they finally arrive on Luzon in the Philippines. While there, Johnnie happens upon a tiny village and meets a little girl, mute from the terrors she’s lived through.
I cannot tell you any more of this story without spoiling it for you, but it is almost unbelievable and incredibly heartwarming. Polacco’s wonderfully-human figures, so full of real emotion and dignity, and the jungle scenes are immensely effective in ushering us into this world and these relationships.
I highly recommend this dear story. Share it with children ages 6 and up, and equally with adults.
Coming Home, written and illustrated by Greg Ruth published in 2014 by Feiwel and Friends
With extremely few words, just pages and pages of warm, distinctive faces…
…for their loved ones, their soldiers, to disembark from the plane and be near enough to hug, this quiet book portrays the experience of children of military parents.
In the end, this boy’s mom is the soldier he’s looking for, which will make this book especially meaningful to some military families. There aren’t many titles out there for coming alongside these children. I like that this one does it without blathering on — the handsome pictures speak volumes. Ages 3 and up.
Poems in the Attic, by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon published in 2015 by Lee & Low Books
Here’s another kids’ perspective on life in the military: growing up as an army brat.
Poet Nikki Grimes delves into the aches and wonders of a childhood marked by frequent uprooting. She does this in the form of letters discovered by a young girl, letters written by her mother as she grew up moving from one air force base to another around the world.
In short free-verse and tanka poems, Grimes packs the excitement of new discoveries in homes from Colorado to Japan, as well as the sting of repeated goodbyes when friends and dear places are met and left, met and left.
Strength and resilience mark the overriding tone of this book, with artwork to match. It will be especially appreciated by others who lead a transitory lifestyle, for whatever reasons. A great window onto a unique set of people, for ages 5 and up.
War Dogs: Churchill & Rufus, written and illustrated by Kathryn Selbert published in 2013 by Charlesbridge
This brief, very accessible introduction to Winston Churchill finds us tagging along with him and his miniature poodle, Rufus, as they tend to duties during the war years.
Whether he’s poised at Churchill’s feet while the prime minister furiously scratches off letters, loafs in the war rooms, or walks out to check on damage from the Blitz, Rufus is as faithful a dog as anyone could want. Just what someone with the burdens of Churchill needs.
Kathryn Selbert is a self-professed admirer of both Winston Churchill and poodles, and her portrayal of this famous duo is full of warmth. Even the golden and russet tones of the illustrations convey a mellow strength. Snippets of Churchill’s famous speechesare pinned onto the pages as well, showcasing his courage and rich vocabulary.
Included are a timeline of World War II, an Author’s Note about Churchill, and books and websites for further reading. Churchill’s unwavering leadership monumentally shaped our world. Introduce him to children ages 5 and up with this book.
Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and his Service Dog, by Luis Carlos Montalván with Bret Witter, photographs by Dan Dion published in 2014 by Roaring Book Press
Tuesday is a gorgeous Golden Retriever with a face that could melt the toughest heart.
He is also one of Luis Montalván’s dearest friends. After being injured in 2003 in Iraq, Montalván developed PTSD. He was linked up with Tuesday in 2008 to help him manage both stress and physical limitations.
Montalván has previously written about his experiences in a bestselling book, but this little book is a photoessay narrated by Tuesday in which we learn about what Tuesday’s job entails. That’s a great angle for understanding not only the trials faced by many veterans, but the enormous gift that service animals are to so many individuals.
Brief and tender, it’s accessible to children ages 3 and up.
The Donkey of Gallipoli: A True Story of Courage in World War I, by Marc Greenwood, illustrated by Frané Lessac published in 2008 by Candlewick Press
World War I may seem so long ago but as it’s the whole reason we set aside November 11 as Veterans’ Day, and as it’s a phenomenally important war which Europeans and Australians are far better at remembering — I give you this final book.
Fittingly, as it’s about Gallipoli, it’s by two Australians, a husband-and-wife team. Here they tell us the story of an Aussie hero, Jack Simpson, and his trusty donkey, Duffy, who braved unbelievably fierce fighting from Turkish forces, rescuing over 300 wounded men during a twenty four day gun battle. One of those men, by a remarkable coincidence, was a childhood friend he had not seen for many years.
In the end, in the midst of yet another foray to rescue the injured,Jack Simpson was shot and killed. His undaunted courage is inspiring, and just one example of the heroic selflessness we honor on Veterans’ Day.
Use your judgement with this book with its depictions of warfare. It’s written for ages 5 and up. End Notes give more information about Jack and his friend Billy, donkeys and mascots of World War One, the Turkish army, and Ataturk.
More titles and reviews can be found by looking in the Subject Index under Holidays: Veterans’ Day