I like to teach my kids at school about Veterans Day. It’s a bit tricky because they are so young. How much do you tell a 5 year old about the military in a way that emphasizes the importance without scaring them?
I’m always looking for books that can tell about Veterans Day in an age appropriate way. Recently I found a list of books that included several I had never heard of. Luckily my library had a few so I was able to check them out myself to preview. These three books are all great but only one of them would be classroom appropriate. I would have read all of them to my own kids at home but in the classroom it’s a bit trickier. Talking about the military can bring up war and killing and I don’t want to introduce things to these kids that they (or their families) aren’t ready for at this young age. Some subjects are better introduced one on one at home. We are a military family so these things are part of our life already but I know this isn’t true for everyone.
Rags – Hero Dog of WWI
Rags is a homeless dog in France who is adopted by Private James Donovan and then by his unit of American soldiers, First Division. He learns to carry messages for the unit. Rags also helped by keeping mice from the trenches around the men. Because he was a dog, he could hear the incoming shells before the soldiers. The soldiers learned to duck for cover whenever they saw Rags crouching down to hide.
Donovan and Rags were injured in the battle for Argonne Forest in October 1918. A friend helped smuggle Rags onto the hospital ship that carried them both to America. Rags spent each day with Donovan in the hospital. Unfortunately James Donovan did not survive his wounds and died in 1919.
An epilogue tells how Rags was eventually adopted by another Army family on base. When Rags finally died in 1936, he was given an obituary in the New York Times. Other honors given to this plucky hero include induction into the Legion of Hero Dogs.
More about Rags
I had never heard Rags’ story before reading this book but a quick Google search will lead you to more information about this amazing dog. An adult book about Rags’ story is called From Stray Dog to World War I Hero – The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First Division.
Tucky Jo and Little Heart
Tucky Jo and Little Heart is a story about Johnnie Wallen who served in the Army during World War II. He was in the Sixth Infantry, Company G, Twentieth Division and ended up fighting in the Pacific on several islands, including Luzon in the Philippines.
While he was on patrol one day in Luzon, he met a young local girl. The girl did not speak but showed Johnnie how to relieve the sting of his bug bites with a certain leaf. He instantly felt better and introduced himself to the girl as Kentucky Johnnie then shared some chocolate from his rations. The girl still wouldn’t speak so after noticing a heart-shaped birthmark on her arm, he decided to call her Little Heart. Finally she called out, “Tucky Jo!” before running back into the jungle.
The next day Johnnie brings a doll he had made out into the jungle in hopes of seeing Little Heart again. He waited in the same place for a long time and eventually she showed up. She loved the doll and they became friends. He shared his food and also brought extra for her to bring back home.
One day, Little Heart doesn’t come so Johnnie goes to look for her. He finds her in her village where he also finds one man who speaks English – Little Heart’s grandfather. Johnnie finds out that the Japanese soldiers had taken all of their fishing gear so he offers to help them get more fish from the river.
Several weeks later, enemy soldiers are headed toward the village and toward the Americans’ base camp. Johnnie is given permission to run and save the villagers. Little Heart is sent away in a transport truck and Johnnie never sees her again.
One day, many years later, Little Heart and Tucky Jo are miraculously reunited at a VA hospital. Little Heart is now Nurse Zaballa and helps Johnnie with his medical care as he nears the end of his life.
More about this story
This story hit a more personal note for me. My husband’s family is from the Philippines and my father-in-law and his sister have told many stories of World War II – how they loved the Americans and how the Japanese burned down the villages and chased them into the jungle. While visiting the Air and Space museum a few years ago, my father-in-law recognized a plane that looked like the ones they used to see flying over their village during the war.
Tuesday Tucks Me In
This is a story about Luis Montalvan, a former Army Captain, and his service dog, Tuesday. It is a fairly simple story that shows a typical day in the life of Luis and Tuesday. The photographs complement and continue the story on each page. It is a nice way to introduce kids to what a service dog can do, not just for veterans, but for anyone. Of the three books I have covered here, this is the one that I could bring to my classroom.
More about this story
This is a very simple children’s book that has been written as a companion to the original book, Until Tuesday, A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him. The picture book version didn’t make me cry like the other two books above did but I’m willing to bet the adult version would have me crying for sure.
An interesting side note- in the author’s bio it mentions that he is studying narrative medicine. I had never heard of that before so of course had to look it up. It is a field that emphasizes a person’s story in a holistic approach to healing, research, and education. Sounds like something the medical field could use more of.
The books I currently use in the classroom
Another Veterans Day post
I also wrote about The Poppy Lady and the red poppies used on Veterans Day and Memorial Day as well as a visit to my local museum, the Freeman House, to see a WWI display. Click the photos to read more.
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