Children’s book shines a light on lives of Navy brats
A light, humorous story about a spunky 9-year-old girl who loves Navy-brat life debuted this week in U.S. and online bookstores.
“Piper Reed, Navy Brat,” written by National Book Award-winning children’s author Kimberly Willis Holt, is expected to arrive in the Navy Exchange in about a week and in Army and Air Force Exchange Service overseas outlets by mid-September.
Although the book is a work of fiction, Holt says the setup is based on her own military childhood.
Holt’s father spent 21 years in the Navy, retiring the same year she graduated from high school. Along the way, she lived all over the world, including France and Guam.
“My dad was a Navy chief, like Piper’s dad,” Holt said from her home in Amarillo, Texas. “I was also one of three daughters, but I was the oldest. ... Piper is the middle child. My sister never met a stranger. She was clever and funny. I was serious and shy. I thought the story would be more interesting from my sister’s point of view.”
The fictional Piper already has moved numerous times in her life when the family relocates to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., where she begins plotting new adventures.
It’s there she encounters the Blue Angels, the famed Navy flight-demonstration team Holt saw perform many times in real life.
“Growing up, I didn’t appreciate the life my military childhood offered me,” Holt said. “I had to become an adult to realize that I indeed had a rich childhood filled with wonderful experiences. In that way, I’m a little envious of Piper. Every day, she realizes how lucky she truly is to be Piper Reed.”
Holt, now 46, has a 20-year-old daughter in college. She said her husband served in the Navy for six years.
Her advice to military kids today?
“Love the life you have been given,” she said. “When I was growing up, I thought I was boring and had an ordinary life. Now I realize how lucky I was to have such an exotic life.
“As a young person, I visited Spain, Japan, Canada, as well as many places in the United States. Before I was 14, I’d been to more places than most adults have in their lifetime. That kind of life is a gift. It broadens you; it helps you become tolerant of others.”
Author Kimberly Willis Holt entered the world of children’s literature in 1998 with the publication of “My Louisiana Sky.” She was awarded the National Book Award the following year for “When Zachary Beaver Came to Town” and has received many starred reviews for her other works.
“Piper Reed, Navy Brat” is Holt’s ninth book. Its cover price is $14.95.
Kristine Sturkie, a NEX spokeswoman in Virginia Beach, Va., said the book would be available in overseas stores in about a week and would be sold for $11.21.
It could take longer before the book arrives on AAFES shelves in the Pacific. Air Force Master Sgt. Donovan Potter, a spokesman at the organization’s regional headquarters on Okinawa, said an order has been placed, but it will take about 45 days to arrive because it’s coming by surface shipment.
AAFES plans to sell “Piper Reed, Navy Brat” for $13.45.
— Vince Little