Reviews for Picture Books

Here is the list  Picture Books that I have reviewed:


Sometimes We Were Brave by Pat Brisson


My Red Balloon, by Bunting, Eve. Illustrated by Kay Life


Dear Baby I’m Watching Over You, by Carol Casey


Year of the Jungle, by Suzanne Collins


Pilot Mom by Kathleen Benner Duble


Hero Dad by Melinda Hardin


Hero Mom by Melinda Hardin


Captain Cat by Syd Hoff


Knit Your Bit by Deborah Hopkinson


Our Daddy is Invincible! by Shannon Maxwell


Love Lizzie: Letters to a Military Mom, by McElroy, Lisa Tucker


My Father is in the Navy by Robin McKinley


Nugget on the Flight Deck by Patricia Newman


Stars Above Us by Geoffrey Norman


Postcards from a War by Vanita Oelschlager


When Dad’s at Sea by Mindy L. Pelton


My Daddy Was a Soldier: A World War II Story by Deborah Kogan Ray


While You Are Away by Eileen Spinelli


The Impossible Patriotism Project by Linda Skeers


Good Night Captain Mama / Buenas Noches Capitán Mamá, by Graciela Tiscareño-Sato


Red, White, and Blue Good-bye, by Tomp, Sarah Wones. Illustrated by Ann Barrow


The Christmas Box by Jo Anne Stewart Wetzel


All Those Secrets of the World by Jane Yolen




Biden, Jill. (2012) Illustrated by Raul Colon Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops Simon & Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books

ISBN-10: 144245735X

ISBN-13: 978-1442457355


Natalie’s father has to go away and Natalie is sad. Her mother tells her that “Soldiers have to do hard things sometimes.” The year of her father’s absence passes with milestones like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Be brave Natalie is written at the bottom of each page’s text indicating Natalie’s comforting words to herself as she misses her father every day. Natalie does manage to be brave and is even able to comfort her little brother when he is upset. Finally her father returns and “Natalie races to her father and hugs him around the legs”. The soft tones of the illustrations complement the comforting story. Based on the story of Jill Biden’s own grandchildren. Includes information for adults about the military community and how to reach out and help them.








Brisson, Pat. (2010) Illustrated by France Brassard  Sometimes We Were Brave Boyds Mills Press.


ISBN: 978-1590785867


Jerome’s mother is in the Navy and when she goes away to work on her big ship she tells him “Be brave, Jerome. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Even though Jerome doesn’t feel brave, his life still goes on with his father and his dog, Duffy. Sometimes they get surprises or treats, but sometimes they also have bad days or have accidents. When they have a pet show at his school Duffy the dog is so frightened that he hides behind Jerome’s legs, but he manages to sit, walk and shake hands when he is asked. Jerome’s teacher tells Jerome that, “Being brave means doing what you’re supposed to do even though you’re afraid.” Illustrated with warm full-page paintings, Sometimes We Were Brave is an affirming book about getting through difficult times.


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Brown, Margaret Wise. (2010) Illustrated by Steven Savage. The Fathers are Coming Home. Margaret K. McElderry.


ISBN: 978-0689833458


Margaret Wise Brown died in 1952, but this book came out in 2010. It is a warm story for the youngest listeners who want to hear about returning fathers. Most of the fathers who return are animals; from bugs to dogs, but it is tied together nicely for military children, especially connected to the Navy, by the ship illustrated on the first page and the sailor father at the end who “comes home form the sea. Home to his little boy.”


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Bunting, Eve. (2005) Illustrated by Kay Life My Red Balloon Boyds Mills Press.


ISBN: 1590782631


Bobby’s father is coming home off his ship where he has been “Making sure our country stays safe”. Bobby and his mother are so excited to be meeting him that they’re all dressed up, right down to his new Spiderman underpants. But the best thing they have for his father is a red, heart shaped balloon with “Welcome Home” written on it. Bobby is worried that his father won’t know him because he has been away so long, and Bobby has grown so much, so the balloon is his identification. Bobby carries the balloon carefully as they get ready, wait on the dock and as they watch the ship come in. But disaster looks inevitible when the balloon comes loose, until it floats up right among the sailors on the ship. A descriptive and reassuring story.


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Casey, Carol. (2010) Dear Baby I’m Watching Over You Dear Baby Books. 2010




ISBN: 978-0982097236


For my full review, see Pied Piper Pics, the picture book review blog from the Williamsburg Regional Library.


An affecting story that ends in a promise that small military children can hold close, “I’m alway, always watching over you.”




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Year of the Jungle


Collins, Suzanne, (2013). Year of the Jungle Scholastic Press




ISBN-10: 0545425166


ISBN-13: 978-0545425162


This autobiographical book by bestselling author of The Hunger Games came out on September 10, 2013. Suzy hears that her father “has to go to something called a war”, leaving her confused. She also learns that he will be in a jungle. Suzy knows about jungles from cartoons so she pictures her father in a happy place among her favorite cartoon characters, but things change as she learns more about his situation. Parents and caregivers thinking of sharing this with very young military children should read it first themselves and decide if it is appropriate. It all comes out well in the end, but it does have some dark moments and pictures.




For a longer review I wrote for the Williamsburg Regional Library, see Blogging for a Good Book





Duble, Kathleen Benner. Illustrator: Marks, Alan (2003) Pilot Mom. Watertown, MA.Charlesbridge Publishing.



ISBN: 1570915555


Jenny’s mother is a tanker pilot in the Air Force and is about to leave for training for two weeks. Jenny is proud of her Mom, but also worried about the dangers she is in, so her mother has arranged to take Jenny and her friend K.C. to the air base to show them what Jenny’s mother does. They start by helping Jenny’s Mom fill up the pockets on her flight suit, and Jenny gets to add her lucky silver dollar. Then at the base they go inside a KC-135 and talk about how the refueling is done. At the end Jenny’s father’s arrival shows that the family unit will still be intact and strong despite Jenny’s mother’s absence. The watercolor and ink illustrations emphasize the sky and the majesty of flying but also capture the characters’ range of emotions.




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Ehrmantraut, Brenda, (2005). Night Catch. Bubble Gum Press. Jamestown. North Dakota.



ISBN: 0972983392


This warm book is written in the words of a soldier father talking to his son. The father is going away so as a connection he invents a game of pretending to send the star Polaris back and forth between him and his son. The concept of the time difference is introduced and both father and son are shown sleeping and awake; the father in the desert and the son in America. The endnote information about and diagram of the North Star add to the utility of the book. Military parents and children could use this book as a start for a “Night Catch” game of their own.




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Hardin, Melinda, (2010). Illustrated by Bryan Langdo.  Hero Dad. Pinwheel Books: Marshall Cavendish




ISBN-13: 978-0761457138


In this simply told story for younger children a small boy talks about his father, “My Dad is a superhero. he doesn’t wear rocket-propelled boots – he wears Army boots.” On other pages his super powers turn out to be related to his army life and gear. Active watercolor illustrations and simple text make this a great read-aloud for smaller military children.










Hardin, Melinda, (2013). Illustrated by Bryan Langdo.  Hero Dad. Amazon Children’s Publishing




ISBN-13: 978-1477816455


This is the companion book to Hero Dad from 2010. Like Hero Dad it is a simple and short story with the children’s mothers performing a variety of tasks in the military. “My mom doesn’t have super-human speed, but she gets everything where it needs to go, just in time.” Again active watercolor illustrations and simple text make this a great read-aloud for smaller military children, especially when used in tandem with Hero Dad.








Captain Cat Cover

Hoff, Syd. (1993). Captain Cat. Harper Trophy.



ISBN: 0-06-444176-8 (Paperback)

ISBN:  0-606-06267-X (Turtleback Books Library Binding)


This is not a book about the experiences of military children but it is a rarity – a picture book depicting everyday life on an army base. It is a warm, gently humorous book about a stray cat who wanders onto an army base. The soldiers who feed and care for him treat him kindly. Some of the events are factually unlikely such as a General giving an order to march (rather than delegating it to a sergeant) and it appears to be depicting basic training rather than the ongoing life in the military (because of details such as the soldiers sleeping in multi-bedded dormitories). It could be a useful book because it depicts the everyday world of many military children who live on a base in a straightforward and positive way with an animal as a protagonist.




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Knit Your Bit

Hopkinson, Deborah. (2013). Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story. Putnams.


ISBN-10: 039925241X


ISBN-13: 978-0399252419


Mikey’s Pop “has left to be a soldier” and Mikey wants to do something big to help. His mother and sister suggest knitting for the soldiers but Mikey doesn’t want to do something so girlish until their teacher tells them about a Knitting Bee in Central Park. The boys in Mikey’s class call themselves the Boys’ Knitting Brigade and know that they will beat the Purl Girls. This book is based on true events during World War I including a knitting competition in Central Park in July of 1918. The endpapers include historical photographs of children knitting during World War I.




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Maxwell, Shannon, (2010). Our Daddy is Invincible! 4th Division Press


ISBN-10: 1617510033


ISBN-13: 978-1617510038


Alexis and Eric think their father is Superman. He “sometimes goes on long trips for work” but nothing can hurt him, because he is invincible. Life changes when their father is injured, but he is still their daddy who greets them with hugs. The book shows several different families enjoying their time together despite the challenges of parents’ various types of injuries.


Illustrated in a bright and active style by freelance artist Liza Biggers whose brother, Ethan, died of wounds he received in Iraq. Author Shannon Maxwell wrote this book after her husband was injured in Iraq and she co-founded the non-profit organization, Hope for the Warriors.


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McElroy, Lisa Tucker Love Lizzie: Letters to a Military Mom Albert Whitman & Company Morton Grove, IL


ISBN-10: 0807547778


ISBN-13: 978-0807547779


Love Lizzie: Letters to a Military Mom is exactly what the title promises – Lizzie’s handwritten and illustrated letters to her mother fill up many of the half page spreads while other pages are filled with maps that Lizzie drew to send to her mother. They include her room, her neighborhood, the route of her soccer trip and more. And best of all are the letters and photos that Lizzie’s mother sends back to her. The letters cover almost a year as they are dated from June to May and Lizzie asks wistfully, “How long does defending freedom take?” Includes advice for adults about helping children handle the separation of deployment.


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MyFather is in the Navy Cover

McKinley, Robin, (1992). Illustrator: Gourbault, Martine. My Father Is in the Navy. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.



ISBN: 0-688-10639-0  (Hardcover)

ISBN: 0-688-10640-4  (Library Binding)


Sara’s father is in the Navy and away on his ship. In this calm story Sara goes about her daily life with her mother. She knows that her father is coming home and that her mother is excited but she is worried because, “I didn’t remember him”. In the satisfying ending she finally sees her father and remembers him. This book was written about the childhood experiences of popular fantasy writer and Newbery winner Robin McKinley whose father was in the navy. Martine Gourbault’s pastel colored pencil illustrations complement the text about Sara’s secure life with her mother and her kitten.


Highly recommended.


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Nugget on the Flight Deck


Newman, Patricia. Illustrated by Aaron Zenz (2009) Nugget on the Flight Deck. Walker and Company


ISBN: 978-0802797353


Nugget is a boy going on a tour of an air craft carrier, and gets to fly in a naval plane. The emphasis is on facts rather than plot or character development, and some children prefer books this way. There are lots of military, and particularly, navy terms explained, such as, bird (an aircraft), rack, (a bunk bed), hatch (ship’s doorway). Includes facts about air craft carriers such as the size and weight, the number of TVs on board and the different colored uniforms the deck crew wear.


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Stars Above Us


Norman, Geoffrey. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis (2009) Stars Above Us G.P. Putnam’s Sons.


ISBN: 978-0399247248


Amanda is afraid of the dark, so her father takes her outside to see the beautiful things in the dark – fireflies and stars. When her father has to go away, he tells her that they can look at the same stars and think of each other. Amanda’s father’s military affiliation is vague except that he is shown wearing a uniform while he is away and at the airport when he returns, suggesting that he is perhaps in the National Guard or Reserves.


For a review by my colleague at the Williamsburg Regional Library, see Blogging for a Good Book.


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Postcards From a War



Oelschlager, Vanita (2009) Postcards from a War Vanita Books


ISBN: 978-0980016291 (Hardcover)


ISBN: 978-0981971407 (Paperback)


Matthew’s mother is in the air force, and while she is deployed he goes to his grandfather’s place after school. Matthew is worried about his mother so his grandfather tells Matthew about his own father being deployed during World War II and shows him the letters and postcards his father sent home. Together they make a “Love Daddy” and “Love, Mom” book with the emails from Matthew’s mother and the letters from Matthew’s great-grandfather. Based on the letters Vanita Oelschlager received from her own father in World War II, Postcards from a War connects generations and helps explain war in a way that children can understand.





Pelton, Mindy L. Illustrator:  Steele, Robert Gantt. (2004) When Dad’s at Sea. Albert Whitman & Company (January 1, 2004)



ISBN: 0807563390


Emily’s Dad is a Navy Pilot and is away for months at a time. Emily and her parents make her a paper chain with as many links as days her father will be absent. Emily is so angry that she destroys it but her parents make another one. Time is shown passing with events such as Halloween and then Emily makes a friend who has a father on the same ship. The warm colors of the watercolor illustrations almost glow on some pages.




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My Daddy Was a Soldier

Ray, Deborah Kogan. (1990).  My Daddy Was a Soldier: A World War II Story. Holiday House, New York, N.Y.



ISBN: 0-8234-0795-0 (Hardcover)


Jeannie’s father has gone away to fight in World War II and Jeannie is scared; “the war came into my house to take Daddy away.” Everything changes for Jeannie. Her mother gets a job, there are blackouts and air raid sirens, food is rationed and they grow a Victory Garden.  Time passes, helped by Jeannie’s third grade scrap drive for metal and rubber but Christmas arrives without a letter and Jeannie cries. Finally when Jeannie is half way through fifth grade her father returns. The soft black and white drawings capture the reflective mood of the book.




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The Impossible Patriotism Project


Skeers, Linda. Illustrated by Ard Hoyt The Impossible Patriotism Project Dial Books for Young Readers, 2007 ISBN: 978-0-8037-3138-7


Caleb’s class is making patriotic projects for President’s Day. Everyone in Caleb’s class has a great idea and everyone is looking forward to displaying their work at the Parents’ Night party. Caleb has two big problems; his father is away so he come to Parents’ Night and he can’t think of a single patriotic idea. But then Caleb realizes that his deployed father is patriotism because what patriotism means is “keeping everyone in the United States safe” and his project turns out to be the best of all.




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Spinelli, Eileen. Illustrator: Graef, Renee. (2004) While You Are Away.  Hyperion



ISBN: 0786809728


Three different children with parents in three different branches of the military (the Navy, Air Force and Army) talk about the things they miss doing with their parents and wonder if their parents are missing them. The flowing, melodious text reads like poetry. Slight inaccuracies include saying the Army Papa is driving a jeep when the illustration appears to show a Hum Vee (and a Hum Vee is a more likely vehicle in this situation). Also the three parents are shown being reunited with their children at the same place and it is unlikely that this would happen. The muted colors of the illustrations complement the warmth of the text.




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Good Night Captain MamaTiscareño-Sato, Graciela Good Night Captain Mama / Buenas Noches Capitán Mamá, 2013  Gracefully Global Group ISBN: 978-0983476030




















Red, White, and Blue Good-bye


Tomp, Sarah Wones. Illustrated by Ann Barrow Red, White, and Blue Good-bye Walker, 2005 (April 30, 2005)ISBN: 0802789617


A little girl is sad because her father has to sail away on his ship for six months. She tries hiding in his sea bag so she can go with him, then hiding his boots so he can’t go, but none of it works and he still works on his preparations to leave. To comfort her he shows her things that will connect them, and that also reflect the color of the American flag – red mailbox flag, white clouds and blue ocean.


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Christmas box cover

Wetzel, Jo Anne Stewart, (1992). Illustrator: Root, Barry. The Christmas Box. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. Illustrated by Barry Root.



ISBN: 0-679-81789-1 (Hardcover)


It is 1952 and Daddy has gone to Japan without his family to be a soldier. It is exciting for his two children to get his letters, imagine him living in a tent and even sending him Christmas cookies in October but as Christmas nears his absence is felt strongly. Then a box arrives from him with Japanese things in it, “But the best present was for all of us – a photo album filled with pictures of Daddy.” This book captures the way loved ones are missed more on special occasions. The mention of a new school, October then Christmas show the passage of many months in way children can understand. Barry Root’s illustrations capture a warm family life even with an absent father.




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All Those Secrets of the World Cover

Yolen, Jane, (1991). Illustrator: Baker, Leslie. All Those Secrets of the World. Boston, PA: Little Brown and Company. Illustrated by Leslie Baker.


ISBN: 0-316-96895-1 (Soft cover- Out of Print)

ISBN: 0-316-96891-9 (First Edition Hardcover – Out of Print)


ISBN: 0-606-05113-9 (Turtleback Books Reprint)


Janie’s father is going off on a big ship to World War II. Four-year-old Janie doesn’t really know where her father is going but she is happy about the excitement of seeing the ship off and getting an ice-cream. Playing with her cousin later he shows her that things that are farther away look smaller, so her father’s ship on the horizon looks tiny. When her father returns two years later he tells her she is bigger and she points out that it is because he is closer to her now. There are poignant details like the brother who was a baby in arms when his father left not knowing his father on his return. The butterfly kisses and hugs Janie gets as her father leaves and returns make the story circularly complete and very satisfying. This book is about popular children’s writer Jane Yolen’s own childhood. Leslie Baker’s watercolor paintings capture the details of childhood in a tender but unsentimental way. This was a Reading Rainbow book.


For a longer review I wrote, see Pied Piper Pics, the picture book review blog from the Williamsburg Regional Library.


Highly Recommended.


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