Eve Bunting’s beautifully written story of a boy and his father as they visit the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington D.C. is one of the best books you can find to introduce young children to the meaning of Memorial Day. In this book, a little boy watches his father stand at the wall, remembering his father. The boy also notices others around him — an elderly couple crying, a man in a wheelchair, a group of uniformed school girls.
It takes a while for his father to locate the grandfather’s name, and when he does, the boy watches his father run a pencil and paper over the letters. “You’ve got parts of other guys’ names on there, too,” the little boy tells his father. “Your grandpa won’t mind,” his father tells him.
The boy notices the flags and letters and photos that have been laid against the wall. The book is very much written from a child’s perspective, but the language is eloquent. When the boy puts a picture of himself against the wall, he worries that his grandfather won’t know who he is.
“I think he will,” Dad says.
I move closer to him. “It’s sad here.”
He puts his hand on my shoulder. “I know. But it’s a place of honor. I’m proud that your grandfather’s name is on this wall.”
“I am, too.”
I’ll be writing about another, newer picture book that addresses Memorial Day directly, but I still think Eve Bunting’s book, first published in 1990, is the best one running. The soft illustrations work well with the pacing and the text, and the whole piece is a gentle introduction to a somber topic. ABZ