Children's books for Memorial Day
Notes From the Reading Nook: May 10
Hi there! Happy Tuesday.
This is going out to all subscribers today because if you’re in need of a booklist for Memorial Day, I want to make sure you get it, and because out of all the things I could share about my life (many of which I don’t), this is one where I hope my experience — as a daughter, spouse, and parent — can help others.
Let’s get right to it.
Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban
Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives by Ruth Heller
No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah Ohora
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (this is our current audiobook in the car)
(A version of this post first appeared in my newsletter on May 18, 2021. I have updated it, but the gist remains the same.)
Mini issue: Memorial Day
There are a lot of things I remember about my childhood, but chief among them was my dad saying — all day on Memorial Day and frequently throughout the rest of the year — that “Memorial Day is about the dead.”
I come from a military family, with veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps every which way you look — three out of my four grandparents (including my 101yo grandmother who was the first woman in her county to enlist), my dad, my uncle, my husband, my father-in-law, my dear lifelong friend — so I’ve overheard every variation of “thank you for your service” that exists. And don’t get me wrong, those words are important (I can’t say the recipient in my home always agrees, but they are important nevertheless). What my dad meant when he tried to teach me about Memorial Day was that it’s not Veterans Day — the former is our chance to remember the millions of people who have died while serving, and the latter is an opportunity to recognize all those who have served in war or peace, dead or alive. Honor each, and respect the difference.
There is that moment when you hear your parents’ words coming from your own mouth (for better or worse, am I right?) I don’t often think I’m turning into my father, but when it comes to Memorial Day, I listen to myself reliably telling my children, “Memorial Day is about the dead!” This little part of my dad will forever live in me — and maybe in them, too.
Because I am careful and thoughtful when talking and reading to them on this topic, to explain this delineation. I am careful and thoughtful when we discuss the service of the many veterans in our family, including that of their father, whose tour of duty as a Marine in Iraq lives in our house alongside us in many ways, and I am careful and thoughtful when I talk about the war dead. (This is also why I don’t thank veterans for their service on Memorial Day — I save it for Veteran’s Day and dole it out only occasionally even then, knowing that some veterans are ambivalent about and even actively dislike this even if their feelings about their service are uncomplicated, my husband included.)
None of this may matter to you and that’s fine, but it matters to me.
Beyond the tiny list below there are many more great books appropriate for reading and talking about veterans and military service in general — if you are interested in those now, you can read my mini edition on Veteran’s Day, where I also go into my feelings about the absence of titles that address the Iraq and Afghanistan wars specifically — but these focus on remembrance of the fallen and the lost:
Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion by Jane Barclay
The Wall by Eve Bunting
Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by Jeff Gottesfeld
A Day for Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day by Leah Henderson
Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner
America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven
The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara E. Walsh
There are nuances to each of these titles — Rolling Thunder, a moving rhyming recounting of the annual Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom motorcycle gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. is specific to the Vietnam War; America’s White Table explains the tradition of “the white table” set on Veterans Day in the mess halls of all branches of the military to honor POW/MIAs and the dead — meaning they generate questions that might be difficult to answer (not a bad thing, in my mind, for any book). But in contrast to the much less solemn tones of most of the books about military service in general, they’re just right. They are about why and how we remember, and strike a good — and to me, necessary — balance in the presentation and discussion of one of our biggest military holidays.
Read good books and take good care 😘
Read since you last heard from me: Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby; Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away From the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult by Faith Jones; The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka (all Bookshop.org affiliate links)