Retired educator Gibbons intertwines definitions and familiar examples to help children understand veteran life.
The debut author, who comes from a military family, expands on the concept of a veteran for young readers: “Veterans are also called warriors or heroes. Your neighbor could be a warrior….Any grownup you see could be a veteran.” She goes on to present the various stages of military life, fully addresses the challenges of separation and travel, and offers homespun advice that may help mature concepts go down easy. Her words have the authenticity of experience and the strength of commitment when she writes, “Honor means working hard and doing things the right way….It makes you feel really, really good inside to do things right!” The author acknowledges readers who may see war differently by saying that “Not all people feel grateful for those who go away to war.” Peace protestors also get a nod, but the author notes that “Veterans want peace too. They fight for our freedom, even for the freedom of those people who say they do not like war.” Her unwavering support and sensitivity to veterans of all eras will bring comfort to its intended audience and Ottenbreit’s colorful, cartoonish illustrations are a good match for the text, showing a variety of handicaps and adaptive gear used by injured veterans. A first-person, child-centric voice makes the message personal but accessible without being preachy. However, there are no rose-colored glasses here; the book offers descriptions of scars, post-traumatic stress disorder, and child-appropriate ways to engage veterans. It also delivers a critical message for children when veteran loved ones act “scared or jumpy”: “none of it is because of you.”
A truly supportive message for families and young children living with veterans, full of cheerful pictures, comforting messages, and patriotism.