In this episode we share some great books for helping our kids honor our fallen soldiers, learn more about America, and prepare for Independence Day.
Books Discussed in This Episode:
Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. Next week, we observe Memorial Day, and it is such a special holiday that we have each year to remember those who have paid with the ultimate price of giving their lives for our freedom. And so today I’ve chosen some special books to share with you that you may want to share with your children in this week as we lead up to this holiday. Many times people get Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day confused. Veteran’s Day is when we honor those who have served our country, and we acknowledge them and honor them. But Memorial Day is set aside for remembering those who have paid the ultimate price, those who have given their lives and never returned home. And so it has a different feel to it. It’s a much more somber event. The parades and events that we have that day usually include speeches and memorials and silence and prayer, which is very different from Veteran’s Day. And unfortunately, for many people, all we know about Memorial Day weekend is it’s the beginning of summer. And we get to have barbecues and get together with family. I feel like it’s so important, and I know many people agree, it’s so important that we remember and that we help our children remember the sacrifices of others.
One book has just come out–it’s called A Day for Rememberin’ inspired by the true events of the first Memorial Day. And it’s written by Leah Henderson and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. And I have not been able to read this one because when I’m recording this, it is before the date it came out because it was released on May 11th, 2021. What I could see of the preview and what I could read about the story, it sounds like it’s a beautifully written story, and I’m very anxious to get to read it. And I didn’t want to not mention it today just because it hasn’t come out yet. I think it looks like one that would be well worth getting and reading and sharing.
There are several books that are just simply titled Memorial Day. Some of them are coloring books and activity books. Many of them really should be titled Veteran’s Day. They do not really mention what Memorial Day is all about, but I found two that I like. One is called Memorial Day: Holidays in Rhythm and Rhyme. And it’s the lyrics to a song. And at the end of the book, it has the music for the song, and it is written by Emma Carlson Bern and illustrated by Simone Krueger. And it’s a very simple song written for very young children, but it does acknowledge that we are remembering those who gave their lives so that we could be free. And of course, because it is a song there’s lots of rhythm and rhyme and repetition, which will captivate your kids.
And then another very simple book is called Memorial Day for Kids by Natalie DeMarco. And it’s very simple, very straightforward, and shares the history and the traditions of Memorial Day for our children. And it’s written for very young children and has photographs throughout and is very nicely done.
Another kind of cute book is A Is for America: A Patriotic Alphabet Book. And this one’s not specifically about Memorial Day. It is about America in general. It’s written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Gerald Kelley. And it’s cute. These children are putting on a patriotic play and showing all the different traditions in America and what America means going through the alphabet. Of course, they always have trouble with X. And so the X is actually an ex word, but they honor Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther king, Jr. And then they acknowledge Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and Abraham Lincoln. And so it has quite a few important people and important symbols of America, including the Eagle, The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution. These are all talked about briefly in a poetic form in this very cute book. I think children would love this book.
And then there is America: A Patriotic Primer, which again is not specifically about Memorial Day. This one is by Lynne Cheney and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. And this is the same duo that wrote A Is for Abigail that I’ve shared before. And they’ve also written Our 50 States. And this book has just brief historical notes going through the alphabet about America. So again, it’s another kind of short book, short history that might spark some interest in learning more about the history of America. Both of these alphabet books would be good for your elementary child and the illustrations are well done. And I think it would be interesting for any kid who might be interested in learning more about the history of America.
Now I’ve saved three very special books to share with you last about Memorial Day. And one of them is called The Poppy Lady, Moina Bell Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans. It is written by Barbara E. Walsh and illustrated by Layne Johnson. And it’s the story of the lady who started the red poppies to give out to people for Memorial Day to remember those who had died in the different wars, but she had done so many things. The story is very interesting about her life. She wanted to do what she could, and she did what she could to bless soldiers, to raise money, help wherever she could. And so it’s a really wonderful book, a really nice biography. And it’s just very interesting. She was a school teacher from Georgia, and she lived during World War I. And there are other books about the poppies you can find, but this one is just so well done, and they have done their homework and their research. And the book is beautifully written.
I wanted to share a poem with you. That is what inspired the poppy lady to use red poppies for remembering the soldiers. It’s from a poem written by John McCrae. It’s called “In Flanders Fields.”
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Another very special book is The Wall by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ronald Himler. This is about the Vietnam Memorial and it’s about a boy and his dad, and they visit the Memorial to find his grandfather’s name. It’s a very touching story. It’s not overly depressing or sad, but it acknowledges the sadness of losing someone in a war. I just think it’s very, very well done. It’s a very beautiful book. I think it would be really wonderful to read this in preparation for Memorial Day.
And then the last picture book I wanted to share for today is called Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner and illustrated by Greg Ruth. This is about the veterans that each year on Memorial Day weekend go to Washington DC and honor those who have died. Some of them ride in remembrance of the ones they’ve lost. It’s a celebration, but it’s also an honoring of those who’ve lost their lives and a remembering of their comrades and their friends, their fellow soldiers. And it’s just really special. And this happens every year on Memorial Day. They are riding for peace. It honors peace and the desire for peace, but it also remembers those who have given their lives so that we can have freedom and peace. And this story is also very lyrical. It’s very beautifully written, very beautifully illustrated. It’s just nicely done. “Rolling thunder. Freedom ride. Today we’ll be at grandpa’s side. Early morning, leaving home, gleaming wheels and polished chrome. Grandpa rides for Joe and Tom, friends he lost in Vietnam. Clicking, clacking railroad track. Our trip is for uncle Zack flying airplanes far away. His picture rides with me today. Through my window buildings, towns. Meadows rich with greens and browns.” So then they go to Washington DC and everyone is there and they have this ride for freedom. “Ride and remember.”
With Memorial day and leading into Independence Day in July, there’s a book I’d like to recommend that’s a chapter book for your older children. It’s one I really enjoy. And it’s written probably at about a fifth grade reading level. So it’s really accessible for most of your children if they’re not too, too young, but it’s called The List by C.D. Baker. And there are two books in the series. The first one is Swords of Heaven where it’s the medieval era in England when the Magna Carta was being created. And then The List is a story of the American Revolution. And so this series is called The Bookends of Liberty. So in book one, we see the beginnings of freedom and Liberty and the notions of the importance of freedom being established in England. And then we have the American Revolution in the 1700’s being fought in America. C.D. Baker writes historical fiction that is very meticulously researched. He is a Christian, and he usually finds an obscure story from history that has not been given a lot of attention and sometimes characters from history that have not been given a lot of attention in other stories. And I love that about his work. He’s written several historical novels. I think they’re just so really well done. This series would be good in homeschooling. [Journey of Souls] series would also be very good for your older children to read because it is dealing with the Children’s Crusades of 1212, and is heartbreaking–really, truly heartbreaking. But for an older student who, you know, junior high high school, who’s studying world history, through studying the crusades–tremendously well-done book, and I’ve had my students read them before. It’s a trilogy. And it’s the Journey of Souls Series. The first book in the series is Crusade of Tears. Second is Quest for Hope. And the third is Pilgrims of Promise. This is a great trilogy for your children to read who are older, but for The List, your younger kids could read it to your fourth, fifth graders, especially fifth graders might enjoy the list if they’re studying American history. But since we were talking about Memorial Day and the wars and the battles that have been fought by our brave soldiers throughout history, who have given their lives so that we can have freedom, and then we’re leading into Independence Day, this is a perfect book, I think, to have your kids read in between there. What I love about it too is we see that it was a civil war in many ways. The US was an English colony, and we rebelled against England and fought because we felt like we were being treated unfairly, and we wanted to be independent. And so it shows that struggle here on American soil and how close it came to going the other way. And there’s one section in the book where it depends on whoever was occupying the city who would be in prison. And so if the Red Coats occupied the city, then all of the American Patriots would be in prison. And then if the Patriots came in and took over, then all of those who were sympathetic to The Crown would be in prison. And it would go back and forth. And so I thought that was, you know, it’s not something we think about a lot, but this is a really good story. And I think your children would enjoy it. And it would be a fun one to read together aloud as a family. And it is a chapter book, but, like I said, it goes really fast. It’s about a fifth grade reading level. Just really well done. Another thing that is so cool about C.D. Baker is when I had my students read his books, I wrote him an email and just said, “Do you have any teacher materials, anything you would suggest for using your books in a classroom?” And he wrote me back and said, “No, I don’t have anything.” But he sent emails back to me regarding each set of books because I had my American lit students reading The List and I had my Brit lit students reading The Journey of Souls trilogy. And so he wrote some discussion questions that he would bring up if he were teaching the class. And I read the emails to my classes, and they thought that was so cool that the writer would write to them and share his thoughts and then share why he wrote the books and then share some questions to discuss. So I really appreciated that. That was really amazing. Made the books even more special.
For the devotional today, I wanted to share from Hope for Each Day written by Billy Graham. And this is from March 30th. “Jesus Suffered for You,” Isaiah 53:5 in the ICB says, “The punishment which made us well was given to him.” “Firefighters, police officers, and military men and women all have one thing in common. They are willing to do hard and dangerous things for the benefit of other people. When Jesus was on the cross, he was in great pain, but Jesus’ pain was more than just the physical pain in his body. He also felt the spiritual pain of God’s judgment, even though he was the son of God, perfect, and without sin. All our sins were placed on him, and he suffered and died in our place. Why did Jesus suffer? Because God loves us. Jesus willingly went to the cross because that was the way he could pay for our sins. The cross is the measure of God’s love. How will you respond to his love poured out on the cross for you?
And I would like to share one other today. And this one is from Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment. And this one is from May 25th. It’s called “Courage.” And I just, I couldn’t decide between these two devotionals. They both were so meaningful when we’re thinking of coming up to Memorial Day. So I thought I would share both with you today. The scripture is 1 Timothy 1:16. “I was given mercy so that in me, Christ Jesus could show that he has patience without limit. And he showed his patience with me, the worst of all sinners.” “During the early days of the Civil War, a Union soldier was arrested for sneaking away and leaving the army. Unable to prove that he was innocent, he was sentenced to die. His plea for mercy found its way to the desk of president Abraham Lincoln. The President felt sorry for the soldier and signed a pardon. The soldier returned to service, fought the rest of the war, and was killed in the last battle. After his death, the signed letter from the President was found inside his shirt pocket. Close to the heart of the soldier were his leader’s words of pardon. The soldier found courage in the grace of the President, but we have an even greater pardon from an even greater leader. The pardon of all our sins from our heavenly king. Let God’s grace give you the courage to do the right thing. Growing in grace: Write your own letter of pardon from your leader. Write down these words from 1 John 1:9, and then tuck them in your backpack. ‘If we confess our sins, God will forgive our sins.’ We can trust God. He does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrongs we have done.
Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope these books spark many wonderful conversations and fun times with the children in your life. I try to find books that will bless you and your kids and provide as many materials as I can to help you as you teach and disciple your children. Most of the materials are free on my website, and you can find them at TerrieHellardBrown.com, where you can also sign up for my mailing list to get notifications when I post a blog or a podcast, or receive other emails occasionally that include giveaways or other information. We are coming up on one year with “Books that Spark.” Next month will be our anniversary, and we have some exciting plans for this next year of “Books that Spark.” I have some great interviews lined up for this next year. So I can’t wait. This next year’s going to be exciting. Please tell your friends about “Books that Spark” and encourage them to join us each week on Tuesday mornings when we have our podcast posted. Or they can, of course, listen at any time, but it posts on Tuesday mornings. And we want to hear from you. We want you to be a part of what God is doing in your family to help you lead and disciple and teach your children about the values and the principles and the truths of God’s word and how you’re building in their lives what God wants us to teach our children.
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.