About the Holiday
Although not all celebrated on the same date, Hot Dog Days are worldwide events. The United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia are just a few of the areas where the hot dog reigns supreme on at least one day a year. A favorite of kids and adults alike, hot dogs can be enjoyed plain or loaded with everything from mustard to chili. To celebrate today’s holiday, some venues are offering free hot dogs or special deals. Check them out or throw a hot dog picnic for your friends and family—just like the one in today’s book (well, almost!).
Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic
Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by Victor Juhasz
Before Eleanor Roosevelt became the first lady of the United States, she loved to grill up hot dog roasts for her family and friends. You see, Eleanor loved hot dogs! But after her husband Franklin became President, Eleanor had important duties. “Things were tough in the United States in the 1930s,” and since Franklin “couldn’t walk or move about easily, he counted on Eleanor to travel around the country for him” talking to people to see how the government could make things better. “Soon Eleanor was as popular as the president.”
Not only was the United States suffering through a depression, it looked like the world would soon be at war. Eleanor presided over many fancy dinners in the White House given in honor of important people. These dinners, complained Eleanor, were “always hot dog-less.” Then, in 1939, the king and queen of England decided they would visit America to commemorate the 150th anniversary of our country’s independence from Britain. No English monarch had visited America in all that time.
Eleanor did a little research and discovered that Queen Elizabeth was a distant cousin of George Washington. “‘She’s practically a member of the American family!’” Elizabeth exclaimed. “‘So to celebrate the first royal visit,’ Eleanor continued, ‘we need an all-American picnic.’” But first, came a fancy dinner. Following that, the Roosevelts and the king and queen drove to Hyde Park, New York, where the Roosevelts had an estate.
Eleanor planned her picnic to be held at a simple stone house on the property owned by the president, where the scenery was as pretty as it gets. Eleanor packed the menu full of traditional American favorites, including turkey, ham, cranberry jelly, baked beans, strawberry shortcake—and, of course, hot dogs. When the details of the menu were released, the White House was inundated with letters from all over the country protesting that hot dogs should not be offered to the queen.
Eleanor answered the protesters in her daily newspaper column. She reassured them that there would be “plenty of other food, and…the more important guests will be served with due formality.” On June 11, Eleanor finished her morning routine and rushed to the cottage to prepare for the picnic. As the king and queen arrived—driven by the president himself in a specially outfitted car—Eleanor could see from the expressions on the royal faces that Franklin hadn’t resisted the temptation to show off, “racing their majesties up bumpy roads, through the woods, and around steep, twisty turns to the picnic site.”
When it came to eat, King George picked up a hot dog and “ate it with gusto … and mustard!” He even had seconds. And the queen? She daintily cut hers up with a fork and knife. After dinner, King George and Queen Elizabeth began their trip back to England with a train ride. Townspeople flocked to the station and stood along the banks of the Hudson River to see them off.
Three months later, World War II began. England and America fought side by side to defeat their enemies. The Roosevelts had promised to visit Queen Elizabeth and King George, but Franklin died before the war’s end. Eleanor later made the trip alone. On June 11, 1989 another picnic was held at Hyde Park in remembrance of that other picnic fifty years earlier. Some of the guests had been children at that first memorable party, and Queen Elizabeth “sent a special message: ‘The memory of the picnic was a source of strength and comfort to the king and me through the dark days of the Second World War….’” And what did the guests enjoy at that second picnic? The menu was “exactly the same—right down to the hot diggity dogs!”
An Author’s Note adding a bit more information about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and King George IV and Queen Elizabeth follow the text.
Leslie Kimmelman’s engaging and smoothly paced story captures Eleanor Roosevelt’s warm-hearted personality and down-home friendliness that made her one of American history’s most beloved first ladies. Details of Eleanor’s White House duties juxtaposed with humorous anecdotes about her love of hot dogs, reaction to her choice of menu, and Franklin’s penchant for driving create a well-rounded portrait of a particular time in history. Including 1989’s 50th anniversary picnic reminds readers of the ongoing friendship between America and Great Britain.
Victor Juhasz uses lush, caricature-style art to great effect in representing the 1930s to ‘40s time period, the lavish trappings of the White House, and Eleanor’s larger-than-life personality and influence. Her wide smile and can-do attitude as well as her self-confidence are on display for young readers to appreciate and emulate. Other character’s facial expressions clearly spotlight the humorous incidents but also the seriousness of the times. And, of course, those hot dogs that Eleanor loved so much look good enough to eat!
For young readers interested in history, culinary arts, and biographies, adding Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic to their reading menu would be a treat. Teachers will also find the book an engaging inclusion to lessons on the historical time period, women in history in general, and Eleanor Roosevelt in particular.
Ages 8 – 11
Sleeping Bear Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1585368303
Discover more about Leslie Kimmelman and her books on her website.
To learn more about Victor Juhasz, his books, and his art, visit his website.
National Hot Dog Day Activity
Grab Those Hot Dogs!
There are delicious hot dogs scattered throughout this maze! Can you collect all nine on the way from start to finish in this printable puzzle?
Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic can be found at these booksellers
About the Holiday
Today’s holiday recognizes the importance and beauty of the rock that forms solid ground under our feet and soars majestically to meet the sky. From earliest times, rock has been used as building material—and even the tools to build with—and has provided us with valuable gemstones that beautify our lives. Geology and archaeology are just two of the sciences that explore the wonders of stone—what it is composed of and what secrets it keeps. Today, be more mindful of the rocks around you and take a closer look at the intricate patterns that lie within them.
Rocks in His Head
Written by Carol Otis Hurst | Illustrated by James Stevenson
Carol Otis Hurst tells the story of her father, who—even when he was a boy—loved everything to do with rocks. He collected them and in his spare time walked “along stone walls and around old quarries, looking for rocks.” Everyone said “he had rocks in his pockets and rocks in his head,” and he had to agree. When he thought about what he wanted to do when he grew up, he imagined it would have something to do with rocks, and when he was told “‘There’s no money in rocks,’” he was okay with that. In the end, though, he opened a gas station in Springfield, Massachusetts with his father’s help. He called it the Antler Filling Station.
In the back of the filling station, Carol’s father displayed his rock and mineral collection. “He carefully labeled each rock to show what kind it was and where it had come from.” When the Model T automobile came out, more people could afford to buy a car. Carol’s father learned every inch of the Model T by taking it apart and reassembling it many times. He thought that someone who could repair the car and sell spare parts would have a good business, so he began collecting parts for the Model T—so many that “the pile of parts was bigger than the filling station.”
Most people in town said he “had rocks in his head” if he thought he would sell all those parts, but pretty soon drivers were flocking to the Antler Filling Station for gas and fixes to their cars. They also came inside to see the rocks, ask questions, and hear the stories of each rock and gemstone. Then the stock market crashed and people didn’t have the money for gas or to fix their cars. Things slowed down at the Antler, and when things were really slow, Carol, her father, and her friends would pile into their Model T and go searching for more rocks.
But while the collection at the filling station grew, people stopped coming because they were all out looking for jobs. Soon the Antler Filling Station closed and the family had to move to a new house. The house was falling apart, but Carol’s father began repairing it—after building shelves in the attic for his rock collection. When he wasn’t repairing the house, he was studying more about rocks. Along the way, he looked for work, taking any job he could even if they only lasted a day or two.
On days when he had no work, Carol’s father went to the Springfield Science Museum, where “they had a whole room full of glass cases containing many rocks. Sometimes he’d spend the whole day in that room.” One day, he met a woman who asked him what he was looking for. He answered “‘I’m looking for rocks that are better than mine.’” Out of the hundreds of rocks in that room, he told her, he’d only found ten, “‘maybe eleven,’” that were better. They smiled at each other.
Then the lady introduced herself as Grace Johnson, the director of the museum. “‘These rocks have come from all over the world,’” she told him, and he said that his had too. She wanted to see his collection, and so they drove out in her big car. Carol’s father showed her up to the attic. After looking around, she told him that while the board of directors wouldn’t allow her to hire him as a mineralogist because he lacked a college degree, she did need a night janitor. When he heard that the job sometimes included cleaning rocks, he took it.
One day, Mrs. Johnson discovered him correcting a label on one of the rocks. She smiled and told him that she had told the board of directors that she needed “‘somebody with rocks in his head and rocks in his pockets.’” Then she asked, “‘Are you it?’ Maybe I am,’” Carol’s father answered. “‘Maybe I am.’” And he was!
Carol Otis Hurst’s lovely and affectionate memoir of her father offers young readers a snapshot of history while introducing them to a man who stayed true to himself and his life-long love of rocks despite obstacles and good-natured jibes by those around him. Hurst’s easy-going, conversational storytelling represents her father well, allowing children to get a feel for his personality and steady outlook on life. His acceptance as a mineralogist (and ultimate position as director of the Springfield Science Museum as told in the author’s bio on the jacket flap) will satisfy readers.
James Stevenson’s familiar watercolor-and-ink illustrations are infused with charm, taking children beside an old stone wall that meanders through the woods, back to old-style filling stations and Model-T cars, and into the heart of a true collector. Images of the author’s father attentively setting up his collection in the filling station and later in the attic will resonate with any young collectors reading the book, and the full-page illustration of Grace Johnson and the author’s father talking and smiling together is happy validation that kindred spirits do cross paths in life.
For children who love collecting, history, museums, and biographies, Rocks in His Head is a delightful choice for home libraries and would make am appealing lead in to science lessons or museum field trips for elementary classrooms.
Ages 4 – 8
Greenwillow Books, 2001 | ISBN 978-0060294038
International Rock Day Activity
Rock This Craft!
Smooth stones can give you a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!
- Smooth stones in various sizes
- Paint or markers
- Small magnets, available at craft stores
- Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
- Paint brush
- Strong glue
To make magnets
- Design and paint an image on the stone
- Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
- Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board
To make jewelry
- Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
- Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
- Wear your pin proudly
To make a paper weight
- Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone
- Let dry
- Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place
You can find Rocks in His Head at these booksellers
Picture Book Review
About the Holiday
Today’s holiday celebrates the merging of math and technology together as the foundation of most of the things we use every day, such as computers, phones, tablets and other electronics. Math and technology are also employed by architects, scientists, researchers, and manufacturers. Math 2.0 Day was established to bring together mathematicians, programmers, engineers, educators, and managers to raise awareness of the importance of math literacy at all levels of education.
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
Written by Margot Lee Shetterly | Illustrated by Laura Freeman
“Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.” The United States was involved in World War II, and Dorothy wanted to help the war effort by working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to make planes faster, stronger, and safer. Developing new airplanes required lots of tests at the Langley Laboratory in Virginia. Today, we use computers to do the kinds of math needed, “but in the 1940s computers were actual people like Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine.”
Even though Dorothy was a woman and an African-American in the segregated South, Dorothy did not think her dream of getting a job was impossible. After all, she was really good at math. She applied and was hired as a computer. At Langley, whites and blacks worked in different buildings and had separate facilities. After the United States won the war, Dorothy stayed on to create better aircraft.
Now America and Russia were in competition to build the best airplanes. This required more math, more tests, and more computers. Mary Jackson was hired at Langley to test model airplanes in wind tunnels. Mary had her sights set on becoming an engineer, but most of the engineers were men. To prepare, Mary needed to take advanced math classes, “but she was not allowed into the white high school where the classes were taught.” Mary didn’t take no for an answer. She got special permission to take classes, got good grades, and “became the first African-American female engineer at the laboratory.”
In 1953 Katherine Jackson was hired for a team who tested airplanes while they were in the air. Her work was to analyze turbulence to make planes safer in dangerous gusts of wind. She wanted to go to her team’s meetings, but she was told by her boss again and again that it was impossible; women were not allowed to attend meetings. At last her persistence paid off, and she became the first woman to sign one of the group’s reports.
When machine computers were installed at Langley in the 1950s, they were faster than the human computers but made many mistakes. “Dorothy learned how to program the computers so they got the right answers and taught the other women in her group how to program too.”
In 1957 Russia launched a satellite into space, ramping up the competition with the United States. Now “the United States started building satellites to explore space too,” and the name of the agency was changed to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency or NASA. Then President John F, Kennedy set a goal of sending a man to the moon. First, however, there would need to be many experiments, new space craft, and tests to send astronauts into orbit. This meant more people who were good at math would be needed.
When the first manned space flight was planned, Katherine calculated the trajectory that would take John Glenn into space and bring him home again. In 1967 Dorothy Darden came to work at Langley. She loved electronic computers and wanted to become an engineer. “Her first job was to help with NASA’s mission to the moon.”
When Neal Armstrong stepped onto the moon’s surface for the first time on July 20, 1969, he said it was a giant leap for mankind. “It was also a giant leap for Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, Christine, and all of the other computers and engineers who had worked at the lab over the years.” The moon landing was just the beginning. NASA engineers were already dreaming of trips to other planets and super-fast spacecraft. And although it would be hard and require a lot of numbers, “Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, Christine knew one thing: with hard work, perseverance, and a love of math, anything was possible.”
Margot Lee Shetterly brings her compelling story Hidden Figures to children in this exceptional picture book that skillfully reveals the talents and dreams of Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, Christine as well as the work atmosphere and social injustices of the time period. While acknowledging the struggles and obstacles the four women faced, Shetterly keeps her focus on the incredible achievements of these brilliant women and the positive changes and opportunities for others they created. Brief-yet-detailed descriptions and explanations of math, science, and computer terms flow smoothly in the text, allowing all readers to understand and appreciate the women’s work.
As Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, Christine each begin their work at Langley as young women, Laura Freeman establishes their dreams and their particular field of expertise through richly colorful illustrations that highlight the schematics, tools, equipment, and models they used. In one particularly affecting spread, Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine go off to their offices on the left-hand side, and their white counterparts head out to theirs on the right-hand side while the blueprint of their building lies under their feet. Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine’s clothing is also mirrored in color by the women on the other side of the fold. Period dress and electronics show progression through the years, and kids may marvel at the size of early computers. The final image of Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine as older women is moving and inspirational.
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race is an outstanding biography of four women who contributed their gifts for math as well as their self-confidence not only to science but to dreamers in their own and future generations. The book would be a stirring choice for classroom and home libraries.
Ages 4 – 8
HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062742469
Discover more about Margot Lee Shetterly and her books on her website.
To learn more about Laura Freeman, her books, and her art, visit her website.
International Women’s Day Activity
Women in STEM Coloring Book
Discover five women who broke barriers and made important contributions to the science, technology, engineering, and math fields in this printable Women in STEM Coloring Book created by the United States Department of Energy.
You can find Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race at these booksellers
Picture Book Review
About the Holiday
Today, the United States commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 by delegates of the original 13 colonies, which asserted that the colonies considered themselves a new nation and no longer part of the British Empire. The day is traditionally celebrated with parades, picnics, and grand fireworks in cities and towns across the country. The holiday also provides the opportunity to remember and honor all the people who have come to America’s shores and have helped to build our nation.
Her Right Foot
Written by Dave Eggers | Illustrated by Shawn Harris
As you may know, one day, a Frenchman named Édouard de Laboulaye had the idea to celebrate the 100th birthday of the United States by giving the country a giant sculpture. He enlisted the help of artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi to design the statue. Bartholdi started by making a tiny version of the statue of Liberty and building bigger and bigger ones and “finally the one we know which stands 305 feet above the water.” He gave it a thin skin of copper—about as thick as two pennies.
It took many men to build the statue, as even just the hand was much bigger than a person. When all the parts were ready, the statue was constructed in Paris. “The Statue of Liberty stood there. High above Paris, for almost a year in 1884. In 1885, the statue was taken apart and placed into 214 crates that were shipped across the Atlantic. When the pieces reached New York, they were reassembled on an island that was then known as Bedloe’s Island. It took seventeen months to finish putting the statue back together.
You may not have recognized the Statue of Liberty when she was first erected. That’s because she was made of copper, and her outside was brown. Over thirty-five years of standing in all weathers, the Statue of Liberty oxidized, turning the greenish-blue we see today.
You may have learned about many of the historical and geological facts associated with features of the Statue of Liberty—for instance about the book and the torch she carries and the crown she wears. And perhaps you have heard some of the humorous stories about her—for instance, that Thomas Edison thought it would be a good idea to put a giant phonograph inside her so that she could talk.
But there is one point you may not know. “The point is that if you have seen a picture of the Statue of Liberty, or many of pictures of the Statue of Liberty, or even hundreds of pictures of the Statue of Liberty, you probably have not seen pictures of her feet. And even if you have seen pictures of her feet, you probably have not seen pictures of the back of her feet. In particular, her right foot.”
When you look at the Statue of Liberty’s right foot, you notice that she is taking a step. “She is on the move.” Now, for years people have talked about her crown and her gown, her torch and the serious look on her face, but no one has wondered where she is going. Could she be headed into downtown Manhattan? Or maybe New Jersey? Doubtful. If you look closely, you’ll see that around her feet are broken chains, “implying she had freed herself from bondage.”
This is a truth the Statue of Liberty understands. “Liberty and freedom from oppression are not something you get or grant by standing around like some kind of statue. No. These are things that require action. Courage. An unwillingness to rest.” The Statue of Liberty was not built to welcome immigrants only from one country on one particular day, but to welcome people from all over, every day. “After all, the Statue of Liberty is an immigrant too,” and she does not stand still to welcome people to our shores. She is striding out into the sea to meet them.
Seamlessly transitioning from droll to thoughtful, David Eggers succinctly tells the history of the Statue of Liberty’s coming to America and then invites readers to focus on and think about just one feature—her striding right foot. Timely and timeless, Egger’s story is a call to action, reminding readers of the promise of America in a most moving way.
Shawn Harris’s striking paper-cut collage images complement Egger’s conversational storytelling with personality, vibrant color, eye-catching perspectives, and—most importantly—the people the Statue of Liberty is welcoming.
Combining a perfect package of storytelling and art, Her Right Foot is an entertaining and compelling addition to home bookshelves for kids interested in history, travel, and social issues as well as for classrooms for story times and to stimulate conversations about the history and meaning of America.
Ages 6 – 9
Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452162812
Discover more about Dave Eggers and his books for children and adults on his website.
To learn more about Shawn Harris, his books, his art, and his music visit his website.
Independence Day Activity
Statue of Liberty Coloring Page
Grab your crayons or pencils and enjoy this printable Statue of Liberty Coloring Page!
You can find Her Right Foot at these booksellers
Picture Book Review
About the Holiday
Take a peek in the mirror and who do you see? That’s right—a fantastic person with inner and outer beauty! Today is dedicated to recognizing and appreciating that person in the mirror!
Why’d They Wear That? Fashion as the Mirror of History
By Sarah Albee
Whether you’re a fashionista or an “any ol’ thing will do” kind of person, there’s no denying that clothes make a statement. Sarah Albee’s fascinating look at human wraps spans history from 10,000 BC to the modern era. Along the way she exposes both historical facts as well as the often repugnant, laughable, and can’t-look-away fashion fads and disasters that have brought us to “wear” we are today.
In Chapter 1: That’s a Wrap, Albee reveals facts about the first needles and thread, silk production, the Mayan tradition of forced elongation of skulls (this was considered attractive, denoted social status, and was intimidating), the first pants, warrior wear, and much more.
Chapter 2: Keeping the Faith exposes the influence religion had on clothing in the Middle Ages. White or russet colored robes were worn by men traveling on pilgrimages while penitents could wear a hair shirt made of itchy, bristly horsehair as punishment. Medieval armor, Samurai dress, why modern men’s loafers are decorated with little holes, and more are also discussed here as is the job of Wool Fuller – in which the Fuller soaked wool in urine to degrease it and improve its texture.
Chapter 3: Going Global covers the Age of Exploration, which changed fashion as explorers from Europe came in contact with Native peoples in the New World. Red dye, rubber shoes, and the leather Moccasins were all adopted by Europeans. And if you think the search for remedies for wrinkles and other vestiges of older age is a modern pursuit, you’ll learn about Ponce de Leon and his quest for the fountain of youth.
Chapter 4: Ruff & Ready takes a look at the Renaissance. You may have seen fur stoles with the head of the animal still attached and wondered, Why? This fashion statement goes back to “Flea Furs” which were dead, stuffed animals that people draped over their shoulders in the belief that the fleas that were munching on their skin would transfer to the animal instead. Unfortunately, people discovered that fleas prefer warm bodies. Another curious fad was the ruff collar. While people may have thought they looked swell, these collars hindered physical movement and even led to the invention of the long-handled spoon because people could not get food to their mouths any other way. One “benefit” perhaps: when the first American settlers ran out of all other food options, they ate their collars, which were stiffened with wheat paste. And there’s so much more!
In Chapter 5: Lighten Up! readers will discover facts about the dour dress of the Puritans and the ostentatious dress of the French court. The tradition of men’s wigs is explained, and today’s face-painting has nothing on the unusual solution for facial blemishes—black velvet, leather, or silk patches in various shapes.
Revolutionary Times take center stage in Chapter 6: Hats (and Heads) Off. During this time clothes began to fit the task. There were clothing items to protect (walking canes became popular as a way to ward off marauding wild dogs), uniforms to highlight the good looks of running footmen, elaborate costumes for Venetian parties, and homespun clothes that became a sign of protest from the American colonists. And if you think “bumpits” and hair extensions are new, women trying to keep up with Marie-Antoinette wore their hair (real and artificial) “cemented upward over wire armatures into two-foot (0.6-m)-high coiffures that made the wearer stand 7 ½ feet tall!”
Chapters 7 through 9 bring readers into the modern age, taking them from a time when children were dressed as young adults and boys wore elaborate gowns until the age of 7 to the textile innovations of the Industrial Revolution and the popularity of bustles that put fanny packs to shame to the fads of the 1960s and today.
Albee’s Why’d They Wear That? is much more than a book about fashion. It’s a humorous, fabulously entertaining way to learn about so many aspects of history, from social revolution to inventions to cultural differences. Enlightening side bars, especially the fascinating “Tough Job” entries, and full-color illustrations, paintings, and photographs depicting every concept make Why’d They Wear That? an essential book for school libraries as well as for home bookshelves. Readers of all ages will want to dip into it again and again…and will “Oh!” “Ah!” and “Ewww!” over every page.
Ages 7 and up (children on the younger end of the range will enjoy the facts and pictures during a read-along session)
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1426319198
Learn more about Sarah Albee and her books on her website!
Watch the trailer for Why’d They Wear That? Fashion never looked so…good? unsettling? hilarious? You decide!
Compliment Your Mirror Day Activity
Mirror, Mirror, What Shall I Wear?
Why’d They Wear That? Fashion as the Mirror of History can be found at these booksellers
About the Holiday
Memorial Day is observed each year on the last Monday of May to honor all members of the military who lost their lives in the service of their country, especially in battle. Begun after the Civil War, the holiday expanded after World War II to remember those who died in all American wars. Memorial Day was made a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1971.
Anna & Natalie
Written by Barbara H. Cole | Illustrated by Ronald Himler
Every year Mrs. Randall’s third-grade class attends the Wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. What’s more every year four students are chosen from her class to carry the wreath. This year everyone wonders who those lucky four will be. Students who want to be in the running to be selected, Mrs. Randall, says, must write a letter telling her why they should be chosen. Hearing that Freddie and Tommy drop out immediately, while Nancy says her letter will be the best.
Anna dreams of being chosen too, but experience tells her she will not. She’s never chosen for the basketball or softball team, the cheerleading squad, or the lines of Red Rover. “Sure, someone always chose her for the spelling team, but the others—the fun ones—never.” But this time seems different. All day—even though Mrs. Randall’s eagle eyes catch it—Anna daydreams and makes plans. When the bus drops her and her sister off, they hurry home to start work.
There Anna makes a secret call to her grandpa and then she and Natalie go to the front porch, and while Nat naps on the swing Anna pulls out her computer and begins writing her letter to Mrs. Randall. The next day Mrs. Randall collects the letters with the promise to choose the team by tomorrow and a reminder for those who will not be picked: “‘Remember,’” she says, “‘it certainly is an honor to be on the team, but it is also an honor to visit the Tomb.’” Then “they talked about Washington and the monuments and the Capitol and the White House, but especially they talked about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Changing of the Guard.”
At school the next day, Mrs. Randall says that while she received four excellent letters, one stood out. She begins to read it to the class: “‘I want to be on the team, not for myself, but for many others who have not been honored or remembered….They worked long and hard and saved many lives….And sometimes they were heroes bigger than the strongest men around. Sometimes they carried medicine and food to dangerous places to save the wounded soldiers. My own great-great-grandfather was in this special service and saved lives. I would like to be on the team to say thank you to those forgotten heroes of World War II. Yours truly…’ Mrs. Randall’s voice cracked and choked, and then she read, ‘From Natalie (with help from Anna)’”
The class starts whooping and cheering, but Mrs. Randall interrupts their celebration to read one more line: “P.S.—Would you please let Anna walk with me so I will not be alone and she won’t be either?” The class begins chanting “Yeah, Anna! Yeah, Anna!,” and Anna can’t believe that her dream of being on the team has come true. When Anna gets home from school and tells her family, they proudly make plans to travel with their “two girls” to the ceremony.
Finally, the day of the Wreath-Laying Ceremony arrives. The students are dressed in their best clothes, and as the four team members prepare to accept the wreath, “Natalie led the procession down the long marble steps, her black coat glistening and her brass buttons shining like the sun. Anna walked beside her.” As the soldier hands the children the wreath fashioned from “dogwood flowers, magnolias, and decorative red birds,” he loudly announces, “The students of Willow Run School and Natalie, a seeing-eye dog, will lay this wreath to honor the men who served in World War II and the dogs who helped them. ATTENTION!”
The clear notes of Taps rang across Arlington National Cemetery as Anna and the three other children lay the wreath in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Afterward, Anna’s grandfather and parents took pictures of Anna and Natalie to remember “this shining moment of Anna, and of Natalie, who saw the world that Anna could not see.”
An Author’s Note revealing the use of dogs during wartime—from ancient history to today—follows the text.
Barbara H. Cole’s story of Anna and Natalie is compelling in many ways. First, it presents a look at what Veterans Day means to children from their point of view. Second, the story honors not only the brave soldiers who protect our country but also the canine corps which has served our military from our country’s earliest history. Third, in Anna, Cole has created a character who is part of a military family through her great-great-grandfather and also has a personal connection to service dogs through Natalie, her seeing-eye dog. The portrayal of Anna as a child with a disability is honest and inclusive, and while the fact of Anna’s blindness is contained in a surprise ending, this serves to present Anna as just another student in the class—a girl who is an excellent writer, enthusiastic about her dreams to be part of the team, and a good friend.
Cole’s straight narration of a school day and a special assignment—complete with asides from students—as well as Anna’s family life creates an environment that will be familiar to readers and carries the story in a natural arc.
Ronald Himler’s realistic illustrations of Anna’s Willow Run School, her home, and Arlington Cemetery beautifully represent this moving story. His pages are full of diverse, real kids, smiling, laughing, getting off the school bus, enjoying a family dinner, and solemnly performing their job at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A hint to Natalie’s true identity is subtly inserted into various scenes, making the final reveal a satisfying moment.
Anna & Natalie is a wonderful choice for all kids observing Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and other patriotic holidays.
Ages 5 – 10
Star Bright Books, 2010 | ISBN 978-1595722119
To learn more about Anna & Natalie and download a Curriculum Guide, visit Star Bright Books!
To view a gallery of artwork and picturebook illustration by Ronald Himler, visit his website!
Memorial Day Activity
Memorial Day Trivia Page
Learn a little more about Memorial Day with this printable Memorial Day Trivia Page!
Picture Book Review