Books for the journey
Published: July 10, 2012
I’m taking the quintessential military spouse vacation this summer. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Husband has a TDY at a desirable location – in this case desirable for proximity to loved ones, including our oldest son. Mom and remaining offspring load up and drive cross-country with stops to see more family and friends across nine states. Meet up with husband, who takes a few days of leave after TDY. Dad flies back to return to work. Mom and kids spend another week or two with extended family, then hit the road to for the journey home.
Because our trip will involve several days of highway travel, the kids and I have been considering how we’ll pass the time.
Long hours in a car or plane for pleasure trips or PCS – or lazy summer days at home – provide excellent opportunities to check out some good reads. I asked some military spouses what their families like and what summer reading they recommend for other military families.
“The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn is a favorite book of her young daughters, said Army Wife Network’s Tara Crooks, co-author of “1001 Things to Love about Military Life.” “The Kissing Hand” is about a little raccoon, who fears being away from his mother.
Tara, whose husband is currently deployed, also recommends Brenda Ermentraut’s “Night Catch,” which is about staying connected to a far-away loved one.
Benita Koeman, founder of Operation We Are Here, a military resource website, said her family likes to read books with a connection to their current duty station.
“During our time at Ft. Lewis, Washington, we spent time learning about the Oregon Trail,” Benita said.
Now stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Benita said her 11-year-old son is enjoying the “Boy at War” trilogy, which begins with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The series by Harry Mazer gives a military teen’s first-hand experiences during WWII, including his witnessing the destruction of his father’s ship, the USS Arizona, and later the internment of his Japanese-American friend.
Benita also recommended another three-book series called “We Serve Too!” which addresses deployment issues for young children, written by Kathleen Edick and Paula Johnson.
“These books were a favorite of my children during my husband's last deployment and brought tears to my eyes as I read them to them,” said Benita.
Diana Hartman, a writer for Blogcritics.org and mom of three military kids now in their teens and twenties said her recommendations for young children are “The Big Orange Splot,” by Daniel Manus Pinkwater and “Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats.
Keats’ classic “speaks to the fleeting moments of friendship a military child finds, only to see disappear, only to see again with the next (PCS) season,” wrote Diana.
After meeting W. Bruce Cameron, author of 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, at a writer’s conference, Navy wife Lisa Molinari chose some of the author’s latest books for her children.
Lisa, a columnist and blogger, and her 14-year-old daughter recommend “Emory's Gift,” and “A Dog’s Purpose,” a New York Times bestseller for middle school readers.
For good travel reading, don’t overlook magazines, said Jacey Eckhart, editor of SpouseBuzz, a Navy wife who grew up in a military family.
“The summer between seventh and eighth grade, our Air Force family moved from Malmstrom AFB in Montana to Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio,” Jacey recalled.
Five days in the car in close proximity with her sister were not only bearable but life-changing for Jacey because of some old magazines her mom bought at the library.
“In one ancient Teen magazine, I read this article about how names influence how people see you,” Jacey said. “The author noted that you can always alter your name especially during a move. I left Montana as a plain ol' Joan. I showed up in Ohio as a newly powerful JC – to be spelled out as Jacey later – and that has made all the difference!”
My family has the car packed with magazines and books, some for school reading requirements and some for fun. A few favorite audio books, mostly Agatha Christie mysteries, will help me pass the miles while I’m behind the wheel.
Here are more book suggestions and reading resources for military families:
“Piper Reed: Navy Brat:” Books by grown up Navy brat and award-winning author Kimberly Willis Holt, The series includes several books for middle grade readers about the lives of Piper and her family.
Two books by Eileen Spinelli are especially applicable to military children: “While You Are Away,” a picture book about deployment, and “Where I Live,” a poetic story about moving.
“America’s White Table,” by Margot Theis-Raven, explains the significance of the POW/MIA table for children.
“Joining Forces With Glory," by Lisa Mallen. A story for middle-graders told from the perspective of a military daughter.
“My Story: Blogs by Four Military Teens,” a fictionalized account based on real blogs by military teenagers, by a mother and daughter team, DeeAnne M. Sherman and her daughter, Michelle D Sherman, Ph.D., Clinical Professor, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Michelle Sherman is also the director of the Family Mental Health Program at the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Hospital and has years of experience in counseling and treating military families.
Dr. Sherman also recommended several books, by various authors, for military family reading:
• “My Red Balloon,” by Eve Bunting, a picture book focused on homecoming for ages 4-8.
• “Why Are You So Scared? A Child's Book About Parents With PTSD,” by Beth Andrews, for ages 4-8.
• “The Fathers Are Coming Home,” by Margaret Wise Brown, for ages 6-12.
• “100 days and 99 nights,” by Alan Madison, about deployment, for ages 8-12.
• “Sometimes We Were Brave,” by Pat Brisson, about deployment, aimed at elementary school students.
• “Daddy, You're My Hero!” and “Mommy, You're My Hero!” by Michelle Ferguson-Cohen, for ages 4-8.
Tara Crooks shares her list from Army Wives Network in this guest article for Military.com.
Benita Koeman’s list of favorites is found at Operation We are Here.
These sites also have lists of books for military families:
The Association of the United States Army
United Through Reading: This program provides the resources for deployed parents to record themselves reading books on DVD for their children. Also see their list of recommended books.
I hope you spend many pleasant hours this summer with your favorite books. Please share your suggestions here.