Friday, November 30, 2012

Terrible Things: an Allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting

Eve Bunting is a prolific and versatile writers with over 100 books to her credit.  On this blog alone, I have written about two of her World War II works - Spying on Miss Müller, a school story, and One Candle, a Chanukah story.  Among her considerable oeuvre is a small but powerful allegory of the Holocaust and what happens when one turns a blind eye to the terrible things that are being done to others instead of standing up for what was right.

The trouble begins in a forest where everything is fine and all the animals get alone well,  That is until the Terrible Things arrive, blocking out the sun and announcing that they have come for all the creatures who have feathers.  Though all the feathered creatures try to fly away, the Terrible Things had brought big nets, capture them all and take them away.  Seeing this, Little Rabbit doesn't understand what was wrong with having feathers, but Big Rabbit tells him not to say anything, and to mind his own business, so as not to anger the Terrible Things.

And so, it went from then on.  The Terrible Things come day by day for the animals of the forest, type by type.  And each time they come, the remaining animals look the other way and ignor the cries of the captured creatures.  Pretty soon, the only animals left are the rabbits.  But one day, the Terrible Things come for them, too...

Introducing the Holocaust to younger readers is never an easy task.  On the one hand, you don't want to scare them so much they can't get beyond their own fear.  On the other hand, as the Holocaust slips further and further into history, it may be difficult for kids to fully realize the importance of the lessons of tolerance we should have hopefully learned from it.  The indirect way Bunting presents both of these concerns in Terrible Things makes it a good book for readers to learn about the Holocaust and for helping kids to understand the consequences of behavior like that of the Rabbits, and for encouraging them to be brave enough to stand up for wrongs.  

Bunting words are chilling and are expertly illustrated in the haunting pencil drawing by Stephen Gammell, which add so much to the ominous feeling in this story.  He is spot on in the way he has captured the fear of the animals as the Terrible Things come for them, but in the sense of isolation each animal type feels as they try to flee:

"But there was no one left to help"
Years ago, I bought a postcard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC and have kept it all these years to remind me of the very thing that Even Bunting is writing about in Terrible Things.  Most people will probably recognize the words, since it is a well know quote, but I though I would include it anyway:

Unlike Pastor Niemöller's quote, I should say that Terrible Things does end on a more hopeful note.   Though it is basically a picture book, Terrible Things can easily be used for elementary, middle school and even high school students.   And there are any number of excellent lesson plans available for this book that has so much to offer in terms of teaching kids about courage, tolerance, diversity as well as the Holocaust.  One example of an excellent lesson plan for older students can be found at the Mandel Project.

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was bought for my personal library

Friday, November 23, 2012

Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury

Eddy Okubo, 16, may have parents who were born in Japan, but he was born in Hawaii and considers himself strictly American.  Eddy is a smart kid and has already graduated from high school.  So far, though, all has been doing is helping his father out with his boat building business, not really know what he wants to do in life.

Now, Eddy thinks enlisting in the US Army might be something he would like to do after hearing about it from his friends, Chik and Cobra, both 18, who have just been drafted.  Trouble is that his Pop has other plans for him - he wants Eddy to go to Japan to learn about his culture and even expects Eddy to be loyal to the Emperor.  Pop's attitude has caused many clashes between Eddy and his father, who still holds on dearly to his Japanese heritage.

But, with Japan already at war, both are aware that things are heating up on the island for the Japanese who live there and it is no real surprise when the boat they have just finished building is set on fire and sinks.  In an attempt to prove his loyalty as an American citizen, Eddy forges his birth certificate and joins the army.  No sooner does he announce this at home, and his father stops speaking to him.

Seven weeks later, on his first leave, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.  Eddy's father sees the sneak attack as cowardly and shameful and tells Eddy "No make shame for this family.  You go. Fight for your country.  Die, even, but die with honor." (pg 41)  Eddy races back to his barracks, where soldiers are being loaded into trucks, everyone except for Eddy, Chik and Cobra and about 600 other island boys.  Instead, they are given tools and told to dig trenches on the base, and for the first time, they are referred to as "Japs" by their new Lieutenant.  Worse still, as they dig the trenches, machine guns are pointed at their backs, ready to shoot should they make one wrong move.

From then on, life in the army changes for Eddy and his friends.  No longer treated like soldiers, they become "grunts" and "Japs," isolated from the rest of the soldiers.  Eventually, the small number of Japanese Americans are separated from the rest of the island boys and forced to live in tents near the shoreline, again with machine guns pointed their way at all times.  Their job - to shoot any Japanese soldiers who might try to land or be shot themselves.

After a while, they are sent to the mainland, and while traveling to Camp McCoy, WI, they see other Japanese Americans who have been herded into internment camps.  At Camp McCoy, Eddy's unit is finally given the designation the Hundredth Infantry Battalion and for once, their immediate superiors are also of Japanese descent.

After a short stay at Camp McCoy, around 25 members of the Hundredth are transferred again.  A Swiss émigré had managed to convince President Roosevelt that dogs could be trained to sniff out enemy Japanese because they have a different smell than non-Japanese people.  Eddy and his friends are picked to go the Cat Island, MS, where they must participate in the training of army dogs by becoming the "hate bait" necessary to teach the dogs to hate and kill Japanese soldiers under the direction of the Swiss émigré.

This is the longest and by far the most disturbing part of Eyes of the Emperor.  And as I read it, it boggled my mind to think that we could treat human beings with such complete disregard for their lives, since much of what they were forced to do is insulting, humiliating and dangerous.  But remembering his father's words, Eddy always does what he is ordered to do - with honor.

In his very informative Author's Note, Salisbury writes that Eddy's story is based on real events and interviews he had with soldiers from the Hundredth Infantry Battalion Separated (as they were referred to, meaning separated from the rest of the army).  Some of the characters in the story are real men who actually experienced the events Salisbury writes about.  In addition, many of the men in the battalion eventually went on to distinguish themselves in battle when they were finally allowed to do what they had signed up for.  In fact, Salisbury points out that every man who was on Cat Island received at least one purple heart and one bronze star.  Salisbury has written a sensitive, perceptive yet hard hitting novel dealing with xenophobia and how it is experienced by those it is directed at simply because of how they look.  Indeed, this novel resonates even today.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was bought for my personal library

A PDF teaching guide for Eyes of the Emperor and Under the Blood Red Sky, both by Graham Salisbury is available here.

The experience of one Japanese American soldier, Ray Nosak, who was forced to participate in the Cat Island experiment can be found here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rose Blanche by Roberto Innocenti and Christopher Gallaz

 I have had Rose Blanche sitting on my bookshelves for years, but I have avoided writing about it for the same reason The Boy in the Striped Pajamas hasn't shown up here - they are both problematic texts with good intentions.

***Spoiler Alert**

Rose Blanche is a picture book about a young girl living in a small town in Germany.  One day, some trucks with soldiers [Nazis] show up and take over the town.  Then, some people are rounded up and put on trucks that drive them away.  Rose, curious about these truckloads of people, decides to follow them.  She follows the trucks out of town and through fields and forests until she comes upon some buildings surrounded by pointy [barbed] wire and where there are lots of children just standing around.  They tell Rose that they are very hungry.

Rose keeps returning, bringing the children whatever food  she could sneak away from home for them to eat.  One night, the soldiers silently flee the area, followed by the townspeople also running away because other [allied] soldiers are on their way to the town.  Not knowing what is happening, Rose takes her food and returns to where the children are, but the place is empty and despite the dense fog, she can see that the children are gone.  While she is standing there, there is a single gunshot.  Rose is never seen again.

I found two real problems with Rose Blanche.  The first was that right in the middle of the first person narration by Rose, the narrating voice switches to the third person.  Why?  Even given her eventual fate, this just didn't need to happen and it was jarring.  I think using a third person narrator would have been better from the start anyway, given the freedom an omniscient narrator has over a first person.

Second problem - Rose's story is just not historical reality.  Her actions just couldn't, wouldn't happen.  It is just not feasible to think that Rose could get away with following, finding, and bringing food to the children in the concentration camp.  Nazi soldiers were simply not that unobservant.  And why doesn't her mother notice the missing food at a time when food was so very scarce?

Roberto Innocenti lived through the war in Italy and because he was afraid and given no explanations about what was happening, he decided to do Rose Blanche as an introduction to the Holocaust for children, in the hope that it would lead to a helpful, informative dialogue between children and adults.  To foster that dialogue, there are no explanations of what is happening, only Rose's very concrete descriptions of what she sees.  And what she see can be found in the very detailed illustrations that accompany the sparse text.  In that respect, it is a perfect example of how a child, like Innocenti himself, might view the world around them sometimes lots of things happening but not enough experience to understand it all.

And so it is left to the adult reading with the child to fill in the explanations - who are the soldiers? who are the children? why are they taken away?  etc.  Which makes this a good classroom/homeschool book for introducing the Holocaust to school-age children.  But this also makes Rose Blanche a story that should not willy-nilly be given to a child to read on their own, it is way too graphic for younger picture book readers.

I really wanted to love Rose Blanche, but in the end, I could only like it.  This being said, this is not a book to just disregard.  There is much to be gotten from it.  A tremendous amount of discussion inducing material can be found Innocenti's wonderfully detailed, claustrophobic illustrations when used in conjunction with hard facts about the Holocaust.  And given that Rose Blanche is named for the German resistance movement die Weisse Rose, any discussion could naturally include ideas about the resistance and the fate of the young people in it.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library.

 The Historical Association has an extensive lesson plan for teaching Rose Blanche 
An excellent lesson plan by Laura Krenk and Arlene Logan can be downloaded here 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Weekend Cooking #23: Victory through Cranberries

I was telling a friend of my about a 1941 ad I found in which Ocean Spray had offered a red plastic turkey shaped cranberry cutter that could be gotten with only a label and a dime.  She started laughing heartily.  Her grandmother had apparently sent in the required label and dime, and had received her cranberry cutter.  Many years later, the cutter had been passed on to her mother and it became my friend's job every Thanksgiving to cut out the cranberry turkeys - year after year.

Back in 1941, it must have seemed like kind of a fun, festive addition to the traditional Thanksgiving table.  No one suspected that in a very short time America would be drawn into the war that was already being fought in most of the world after being attacked.

With the country had been at war for a while and things were scarce.  In 1942, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was cancelled for the first time.  Turkeys and all the trimmings were scarce and places at the table left empty by family members serving their country were filled with other members of the armed services invited to share a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  But while tables at home may not had had the kind of abundance they had in previous years,    overseas the troops did have a full Thanksgiving dinner, no matter where they were.  And with women off working in factories and munitions plants, often there was no one home to make the dinner.

Amazingly, despite shortages, the cranberry turkey cutter was offered again in 1943, but this time with a difference.  Metal was needed for the war effort, so the familiar cranberry can was replaced with a glass jar, but not just any glass jar.  By now, Ocean Spray, like every other company in the US,  had caught Victory fever and so its new glass jar was a victory glass jar, with the same cranberry contents as before, but also with many reuses.

But with things getting scarcer and scarcer amazingly enough, cranberries were still available, but now at a much higher price than the year before.  And, of course, with war plants again staying open on Thanksgiving, many woman many women were either working or just didn't have the time or energy to make a Thanksgiving dinner.

By 1944, the food that make up a traditional Thanksgiving dinner were really
in short supply, with cranberries being the scarcest.

But, in1945 Americans were celebrating their first peaceful Thanksgiving and the cranberries were abundant, the turkeys were plump and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was back.

Nevertheless, some nice cranberry recipes were still being offered to cooks during the war.  I found this one in a 1943 article about Thanksgiving dinner in New York Times and I am planning on trying it this year.

Spiced Cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 two-inch sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Grated rind of one lemon
4 cups fresh cranberries

Combine the sugar, water, spices, lemon juice and rind, and boil together
for five minutes.  Add the cranberries and cook slowly, without stirring, till
all the skins pop open.  Chill thoroughly before serving.
(Makes one quart)

During the war, the Red Cross did a lot to help not just servicemen and women, but also refugee children and their families, those left homeless from bombings and prisoners of war.  Thanksgiving 2012 will be a difficult time for so many who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy.  While you are giving thanks for your blessings, please remember those who are not so fortunate at the moment.  If you feel like you want to help, you can text REDCROSS at 90999 to make a $10.00 donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief.

And I hope everyone has a happy, cranberry-filled Thanksgiving.

Weekend cooking is a weekly event hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Spying on Miss Müller by Eve Bunting

I always enjoy a good school story and Eve Bunting's somewhat autobiographical novel Spying on Miss Müller is not exception.  It is 1941 and Jessie Drumm, 13, and her friends Lizzie Mag (really Elizabeth Margaret after the English princesses), Ada and Maureen all attend the co-ed Alveara boarding school in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  And so far, the war has not affected them much.  Still, it doesn't prevent them from convincing themselves that their formerly favorite German teacher, Miss Müller, is really a spy who is somehow sending coded signals to the Nazis from within the school.  The fact that Miss Müller was only half German and that she was also half Irish didn't seem to factor into their thinking.   Now, as the war progresses,  they are giving her the cold shoulder, despite the kindness she had shown her students in the past.

Certain they are right, all the girls need is some concrete proof of her spying.

But how to get that proof?  After Jessie gets up one night to go to the bathroom and sees Miss Müller leaving her room, she decides to follow her.  The only problem is that Jessie loses her on the stairs leading to the roof right near the 'coffin' room, so called because the girls believe it it haunted by the ghost of Marjorie.  Not willing to go further in the dark, Jessie turns back.  No sooner does Jessie return to her dorm and the air raid siren goes off.

What a coincidence, the girls think, that Belfast should be bombed for the first time on the very night Miss Müller is seen heading towards the roof.  Surely she must have sent a signal to the waiting Nazis to send planes and bombs.

As the four friends plan their strategy to follow and catch Miss Müller, Jessie lets their scheme out of the bag to loner Greta Ludowski, a Jewish refugee who got out of Poland before the Nazi invasion, though her parents were not so lucky.  Now her father was dead at the hands of the Nazis and Greta wants vindication.  She demands to be let in on the action to get Miss Müller and make her pay for what her countrymen did.  Then Jessie discovers that she may have something more to worry about.  Her extremely sharp metal nail file is missing and she later discovers it in Greta's possession.  Could Greta be planning something very sinister?

Despite what she says, Jessie still has doubts about whether or not Miss Müller is really a German spy, after all, she had always been so kind to the girls.  But when the opportunity to search Miss Müller's room comes her way, Jessie loses the modicum of doubt and sympathy she may have felt when she finds a picture of her teacher's father, - dressed in a Nazi uniform.

The girls are more determined than ever to catch Miss Müller and expose her as spy masquerading as a teacher, but in the end, Miss Müller has one more lesson to teach her students and it just may be the most important lesson of all.

One of the nicest thing about this novel is the sense of realism that Eve Bunting has created.  She has written that this school story was based on her own experiences at a Belfast boarding school during World War II: "I remember the good times and the bad times.  I was homesick.  There was a war on and our city was bombed.  We listened for air raid sirens, carried our gas masks everywhere, ate food so bad it was indescribable."   All of this and more has been captured so well in Spying on Miss Müller, making it sad, funny, historical, important.

Nazi hysteria gripped much of Britain for quite a while when the Second World War began.  Understandably, people were afraid of invasion, Fifth Columnists, spies and saboteurs and sometimes went a bit overboard with thinking someone was a Nazi.  Kids heard adults talking about this stuff and often got caught up in the fervor.  It is easy to see how a group of students at a boarding school could easily transfer that hysteria onto a half German, half Irish teacher as a way to contain their fear.

This is a tight, well-written novel, as well as one very few novels written for young readers that show what life was like in the war in Northern Ireland.  However, you can get more information about Northern Ireland in World War II here.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from The Bank Street College of Education Library

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day 2012

Maybe you've noticed them outside stores, in the mall, by the side of the road - people holding large bouquets of little red crepe paper flowers.  Perhaps you have also noticed other people handing over money - $1, $5, $10, even $20 - for one of those little red flowers.  Then you remember - it's Veterans Day.  Of course, they're poppies.  And so, you buy one, too.

Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day because the peace treaty ending World War I was signed in the 11th day of the 11th Month at the 11th hour in 1918.   However, it is and always was the day we honor all the men and woman who have served their country in the armed services - those who are living, those who have passed away and those who have fallen in battle.

After reading The Poppy Lady by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh this week, I was a little curious about the poppy itself.  The poppy, the flower so connected to veterans as a symbol of remembrance, has its own history that begins on the battlefields of World War I.

Flanders before the fighting began
World War I was a trench war, meaning that most of the fighting was done on the ground.  Troops would dig deep trenches facing their enemy's trenches, fight until one side gained some ground and then move forward.  It didn't take long for the lovely fields, meadows, and forests of Europe to be decimated wherever the fighting occurred.  But the field poppy is a nice hearty flower that will bloom annually and those stirred up battlefields were the perfect place to germinate.  In the spring of 1915, the first spring of the war, dormant poppy seeds, scattered by the wind, did just that, germinated and thrived on the battlefields.  And so every spring of the war, the fields and meadows would be alive with bold red poppies swaying in the breeze.  

It was during that first spring when he saw what nature had done with these fields, even in the midst of so much death and devastation, the John McCrea, a Canadian Lieutenant Colonel, penned his famous poem In Flanders Fields, as tribute to a fallen soldier.

During the War

Moina Belle Michael, who had already done so much for the soldiers and veterans of World War I even as it was just beginning, was so moved by this poem when she read In Flanders Fields, that she declared "I shall buy red poppies...I shall always wear red poppies - poppies of Flanders Fields.  And so she always did as a symbol of remembrance, earning her the nickname The Poppy Lady.

The poppy was quickly adopted as the memorial flower by the countries involved in World War I.

Flanders Today
And when it is worn on Veterans Day it has a dual purpose: as a symbol of remembrance and as a symbol of solidarity, binding all veterans to each other - it is, after all, made by veterans, sold by veterans, to honor veterans.

That's because every year since 1922, the Veterans of Foreign Wars have distributed live poppies for remembrance.  But live poppies were to get, so in 1923, it was decided that poppies, called Buddy Poppies, would be made out of crepe paper by disabled and needy veterans who would be paid for their work, often providing them with a much needed income.  Nowadays, the poppies are still made by disabled and needy veterans in the VA hospitals and veterans homes around the country.  Not only does the money from the poppies help veterans personally, but it also helps the VA provide necessary services for rehabilitation and important programs for veterans and their families, including help for the orphans and widows and widowers of veterans.

And talk about honors:  this year, if you happen to be in the NYC area, the annual Veterans Day parade will be honored with the participation of eight Navajo Code Talkers.  I think that's pretty exciting.  And the parade will go on as usual despite Hurricane Sandy and this week's Nor'easter.  

And if you aren't around, check to see if there will be a Veterans Day parade where you live.  These are always inspiring events to attend. 

One last thing: it's always a good time to teach kids about Veterans Day.  A very nice teaching guide is available here.

Sunday Salon #4

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Secret Heroes by Carla Mishek and Margo Sorenson

Family history is one of those projects that kids always seem to get in elementary school.  I assigned family history often enough to my 4th graders.  It is a wonderful way to help kids connect to their past and to appreciate what their parents, grandparents and often great grandparents may have experienced.  Sometimes these assignments yield surprising results for a student.  That is certainly the case in The Secret Heroes.

When 5th grader Sam begins his new school, nothing would have pleased him more than to have his zaydeh (Yiddish for grandfather) around to help him adjust.  Instead, he sits off by himself, drawing pictures of the kids playing baseball, a game his zaydeh was helping him to play better.  But now zaydeh was dead, and Sam found himself living in his mother's hometown, the place his zaydeh had settled in when he came to this country.

Zaydeh had been in a concentration camp when the Germans made all the prisoners march into the mountains to hide them before the American soldiers arrived.
Sam loved to hear his zaydeh's stories about how it was a Japanese American soldier who had rescued him in the snow after he had tripped and fallen.  Now, all Sam had was an old, blurry photo of his grandfather and the Japanese American soldier and the stories he knew so well.

When his teacher assigns a family history project for Heritage Day, Sam decides to do his on his zaydeh.  Meanwhile, Sachi, the girl who sits next to Sam in class, invites him to play baseball with her and her friends during lunch recess.  Sachi is really nice and a really go player, but Sam shies away from playing knowing he doesn't play well.  But Sachi is persistent and really wants to be friends with Sam.  So when Heritage Day arrives, Sam is in for a very big surprise when he sees Sachi's project.

It is often difficult to find a good chapter book for introducing the idea of concentration and internment camps to children without being so graphic that young readers get scared off learning about these things.  Or conversely, making it sound so benign that they lose interest.  Mishek and Sorenson have managed to hit a happy median with The Secret Heroes.

With a great deal of sensitivity and care, Mischek and Sorenson have managed to convey the inhuman treatment of the Jews by the Nazis, the conditions in the concentration camps, how the inmates helped one another survive and the Death Marches near the end of the war to try to cover up their shameful deeds.  And with the same care, they introduce kids to the internment camps where the US contained the Japanese who were living in the United States.  And they learn about the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion made up of the Japanese American soldiers who volunteered to fight for  their country and who were the soldiers who liberated the Dachau concentration camp.

And since this centers on a family history project, the novel also includes lots of information about Sam and Sachi's cultures.  Throughout the book, words that might not be familiar to young readers are written in bold letters and can be found in a glossary at the end of the book.  There is also an Afterword that gives the history of the Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II.

I would highly recommend The Secret Heroes for any young reader who may want to learn about their own heritage, whether Jewish or Japanese, and as a supplement to a class learning about family history and/or World War II.  This is a wonderful, inspiring story of bravery and friendship over cultures and generations.

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was sent to me by the author.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh

Once again, it will soon be Veteran's Day in the US and Remembrance Day in many other countries around the world.  This is a day we set aside to honor, remember, and reflect on those persons who are serving and have served their country during armed conflicts and is often referred to as Poppy Day, thanks to the efforts of Moina Belle Michael A/K/A The Poppy Lady.

Now Barbara Elizabeth Walsh has written a book detailing how Moina earned her nickname.  Walsh begins with a brief introductory prologue describing Moina's life up to World War I.  Moina was a well-educated girl from Good Hope, Georgia who began teaching the children of neighbors in 1885 in an old slave cabin at the age of 15.  By the time World War I broke out, she was a university professor at the University of Georgia.

The rest of The Poppy Lady is a narrowly focused narrative about Moina's attempt to do something meaningful for the soldiers who fought in the Great War.  It begins Moina's story with the start of the war, while she was traveling through Europe.  Still disturbed by what she had seen of the fighting after she returned home, Moina was determined to do something for the soldiers after the US entered the war in 1917.  Like many women on the home front, Moina knitted warm items, rolling bandages, collected books and magazines and even invited soldiers home for a meal, but she continued to feel she could do more.

So off she went to New York and set up a welcoming place in Hamilton Hall, Columbia University, where soldiers could come and relax, talk and get information.  But even though it was a hugh success, but Moina wanted to do still more.

One day she read the poem "We Shall Not Sleep" by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian doctor, which honors the soldiers fallen on the battlefields of Flanders, Belgium.  Moved and inspired, Moina began wearing and giving out poppies as a tribute to those soldiers.  Other began to follow her example and eventually the poppy was adopted around the world as a symbol of honor and remembrance for the fallen members of the armed services.

What a wonderful introductory biographical account of Moina Belle Michael's work during and after World War I Barbara Elizabeth Walsh has written about this not well known lady who did so much.
Layne Johnson's lavishly detailed oil on canvas painting do much to capture Moina's spirit.  Just look at the exuberant expression on her face on the cover of The Poppy Lady or in the image below:

A picture books illustrations do so much in furthering the telling of a story and that is certainly true here.  Together with Walsh easily accessible text, Moina's determination simply shines through, making The Poppy Lady a truly inspirational book for young readers that shows how one person can make a big difference.

This book is recommended for readers age 7-10.
This book was sent by the publisher.

To learn more about the poppy and Moina Belle Michael be sure to visit The Great War 1914-1918
You can find out more about author Barbara Elizabeth Walsh here.
Be sure to visit artist Layne Johnson to see more of his work from The Poppy Lady

This week's Non-Fiction Monday round-up is hosted by Booktalking

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why I Vote

Just as they did for the 2008 Presidential election, Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray, Lee Wind at I'm  Here, I'm Queer. What the hell do I read? and Greg Pinkus at GottaBook and The Happy Accident have organized an event where you can explain why you vote.  Simply write a post talking about why you vole and once it is published,  you can leave the link to it with Colleen at Chasing Ray.  Why I Vote will run from now until election day.  Thank you for hosting Why I Vote again, Colleen.

I once stated on this blog that I have voted in every election, including primaries, since I began voting.  I didn't say it to be arrogance, it was simply a statement of fact.

You see, my dad was an immigrant.  He came here for a better life and he found one.  After a few years, he became a citizen and, despite our childish here-we-go-again-eye-rolling, he never got tired of telling us how lucky we were to be born in this country - especially on the first Tuesday of every November.  Every election day was the same in my house: my dad would get up around 6, make coffee, read the paper, wake up my mom and the two of them would go off to vote.  A little later, they would come home, and we would all have a big breakfast before he headed off to work.  My parents never talked about their candidates, just the importance of taking a stand and voting on it.  And I realized that voting was simply ingrained in me and I took it for granted that my sister, my brother and I would vote as adults - and we do.

But this week, as the Presidential election was heading into the home stretch, I began to think seriously about why I vote as I watched how easily Hurricane Sandy destroyed the topography of so much of what I have known and loved my whole life in a matter of hours.

Politicians can do the same thing, change the whole landscape of our lives.  So, I vote because it is my responsibility to actively participate in how this country is run by choosing candidates who represent my ideas of what I think a good life in America should look like.  

Although this country has made great strides in making sure everyone is treated equally and enjoys the same rights and privileges, but it still has a long way to go.  I vote in the hope that we will finish the job.  

As a woman I understand how hard woman had to fight for the right to vote and I vote to honor their fight and their memory.

As a person who is not African American but who is a caring human being, I truly appreciate how hard it was to overturn Jim Crow laws and to make voting a right for all persons of color and I vote to honor the memory of those Civil Rights workers and to keep voting a reality for ALL Americans.

As I watch people in other countries fighting and dying to overthrow the dictatorships under which they live and transform their countries into democracies, I vote for representatives who will support this effort and to keep democracy alive in this country.   

I can still hear my dad saying to my mom on election morning "Come on, darlin', it's time to go vote" and I vote to honor his example and his memory.

Just one more thing -
Responsible voting also means having knowledge about what you are doing.  "Because s/he is really good looking" isn't a reason to vote for someone.  But knowing what they stand for and that it is in agreement with what you believe is a good reason to elect someone.  Carefully study the issues, the candidates and even the proposition on the ballot and don't forget about the local candidates who are also running.  Remember, locally elected officials can have a trickle up effect all the way to the White House.