Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Poppy Lady

Non-fiction Picture Book Review
The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans
By Barbara Elizabeth Walsh, Paintings by Layne Johnson

This is a very different kind of non-fiction picture book that will be appreciated by any parent who is trying to instill in their children a respect for the troops. The story is about Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia, who wanted to do something for the soldiers fighting in World War I.  Moina worked to establish the red poppy as the symbol to honor and remember soldiers. And she devoted the rest of her life to making sure the symbol would last forever. Thanks to her hard work, that symbol remains strong today. Author Barbara Elizabeth Walsh and artist Layne Johnson worked with experts, primary documents, and Moina’s great-nieces to better understand Moina’s determination to honor the war veterans.

The prologue begins with a biography of Moina.  A dark blue painting of the night-time bombing of an American ship by the German U-boats in March 1917 is followed by a bright green painting of Moira on the European countryside.  Next the countryside is laid waste, showing planes bombing and devastating the land, with troops in the trenches.  In April 1917 Moira is shown receiving the news of war at the University of Georgia.  Another night scene shows Moira at the campus, waiting for news and wondering what she could do.  She is shown leading women in their work for the Red Cross, rolling bandages, visiting the troops at the nearby camps, and seeing them off on the train.  She goes to Columbia University to train for the YMCA; there she serves the troops at Hamilton Hall.  She finds that by brightening the dark room with flowers, the troops are happy to come spend time there.  She is inspired by the brightly colored illustration of a battleground covered with unmarked crosses and red poppies, accompanying a poem called “We Shall Not Sleep” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.  It ends with the line, “We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields”.  She starts to give the men poppies and begins a mission to have everyone wear poppies in honor of the troops.  The Epilogue explains how the poppy lives on as a way to thank those who fought to give us freedom.  The paintings are realistic and full of emotion.  The book was well-researched, and provides a Bibliography for further reading.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will support the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple®, which benefits children of the U.S. military.

Ages: 7-11
Pages: 40
List Price: $16.95
Cover: Hardcover
Published: 9/1/2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-59078-754-0

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