Nov 14, 2019

Veterans' Day and More: Respect for All Who Served

Veterans's Day merits our public and private attention. But I chose NOT to post this on "the day" for a specific reason. All who served, including DOGS, should be recognized throughout the year. 
For their sacrifices and and for their enduring contributions to a safer world. 
And that means more than just a passing "Thank you for your service" when we notice a uniformed active duty-person in public. Many say such attention is appreciated, but also raises the question: "Does anyone even know what my service has been like? What are they thanking me FOR?"
So let's take a quick look at some stories that let young readers develop better understanding of military service with specificity-- in ways that are both informative and age-appropriate-- with a dog in the story.
SERGEANT STUBBY is an actual dog who became a mascot and hero during World War I. For many years Stubby's story faded from history, or remained among adult military historians.
Anderson Press, 2019

Now, in several wonderful ways, Stubby's story has been shared in kid-friendly picture books. The most recent is STUBBY: A TRUE STORY OF FRIENDSHIP, written and illustrated by Michael Foreman. This is nonfiction with helpful backmatter, including a photo of the actual STUBBY and historic details not told in the body of the text. 
Both the imagined casual first person narration (suggested for actual Corporal Robert Conroy) and the events portrayed in softened/lightened illustrations allow young readers to focus on Stubby's energetic and supportive personality rather than on more severe elements of war training and actual war.
Stubby becomes a mascot for Conroy and his company, exceeds every hope or expectation, and even shakes paws with President Wilson. Back matter added small rich details, such as that last one, while freeing the story itself to develop the deep relationship between Stubby and Conroy (and the rest of his team).
The final page makes clear that post-war home life is a big improvement, but also leaves veterans (human and dog) seeking time to find their new place in an old-but-changed world. The end papers are brilliant, as the opening papers carry bootprints into the pages of war, but the final papers include paw prints with the bootprints, heading out of the book and into the future, together. 
Stubby and Conroy will certainly raise curious questions from even the youngest.
National Geographic Children's Books

For more detailed (and extensively well-researched) information about Stubby, pick up a previous nonfiction book for slightly older readers. STUBBY the WAR DOG is written by award-winning author Ann Bausum and densely illustrated with archival photographs, maps, etc. that enhance the life and facts surrounding Stubby.
The details of Stubby the War Dog (the much-decorated Sergeant Stubby) are making their way into a variety of books for young readers. In this case, the reliable Ann Bausum brings her award-winning research and writing skills to a youth-friendly, photo-rich version of the adult book she wrote on this topic. Using an appealing storytelling tone, Bausum finds both the heart and the power of this war-dog story. Dense with useful (and fascinating) back matter and sources, this is a great choice as anchor reading for middle graders, supplemented by the growing number of simpler picture book approaches to this true story. 
See a link to a prior post that includes several more current picture books about veterans- human and dog.
Depending on where you live or plan to  travel, you might want to save the link to this post, which features active links and other information about some of the many global monuments to war service dogs. Click now to take a virtual tour right away, if travel isn't on your agenda. Then add a stop at the library or bookstore on your next list for errands and pick up these two books. In them you'll find amazing stories about this remarkable dog, but also find breathtaking details about the lives lived by military personnel.
And the next time you thank a service member, consider chatting a bit, if the opportunity arises, to learn more of their own stories.

Added note, Fall 2020:  Since posting this originally I learned about a new website that is focused on "FAMOUS DOGS" from cartoon characters to movie stars to real life heroes, like Stubby. If you are a dog fan (as in FANatic) you may want to take a look, HERE.

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