Veterans Day Recommendation

On November 11, we pause to remember those who have served in our Armed Forces and sacrificed much for their country.   November 11 is the date for this commemoration because in 1918, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh hour, warring world powers signed an armistice, ending World War I.

In Flanders Fields
The Story of the Poem by John McCrae


flanders

 

Linda Granfield. 
Illustrated by Janet Wilson.  Fitzhenry and Whiteside,
2005 (4-6)

This poignant volume speaks to both the sacrifice of those who fought in World War I and their hope that their death served a higher purpose.

Idealistic physician John McCrae served in the Canadian armed forces on the Western Front. He experienced trench warfare, poison gas, and the death not just of many patients, but of a close friend. The death of his friend prompted him to write the famous poem which sets the stark finality of death against a background of life. He asks later generations to vindicate their sacrifice and not to break faith with those who have died.

Granfield’s explanation of the war’s causes and dimensions provide a sobering backdrop for the poem, as does the knowledge that McCrae himself died before the war’s end. Teachers may wish to read the entire text of the poem with the class first, then read the contextual material over a period of two days, and conclude with a final reading of the poem.

Each month on the Core Virtues website, we feature the life of a hero or heroine – men and women who have tirelessly pursued excellence in their lives and helped improve the lives of others. We tie each month’s biography to the virtue of the month or to a theme suggested by the particular time of the year.

November

Gratitude, Wonder, Stewardship 

haleSarah Buell Hale (1788 -1879)

Writer, poet, and America’s first woman editor, Sarah Buell Hale is largely responsible for the celebration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. The holiday had been celebrated sporadically in different states through the early 1800s and occasionally individual presidents declared a specific day of Thanksgiving. But it was Mrs. Hale’s tireless campaign to make it a national holiday that bore fruit under the administration of Abraham Lincoln during the most trying period of American History, the Civil War. 

Sarah Hale’s own story was extraordinary. A native of New Hampshire, she was the mother of five children when she was widowed in 1822. To support her large family, she put quill to paper and began writing poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Her first book of original Poems for Our Children was published in 1830 (and included her still popular “Mary Had a Little Lamb”). Sarah’s talents caught the eye of Reverend John Blake of Boston, who was publishing a popular monthly Ladies Magazine that he himself edited. Blake was bold enough to ask Sarah to take over as editor (there were no women editors in the United States). She moved to Boston and proceeded to boost circulation. When Louis Godey bought Rev. Blake’s magazine in 1837, he asked Sarah to stay on as editor.  Mrs. Hale presided as editor (or “editress” as she preferred) of the influential Godey’s Lady’s Book from 1837 to 1877 – recommending books, authors, fashions, and social causes (ranging from the education of women to the restoration of historic sites). She furthered the careers of major American writers by publishing literary essays by Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Sarah Buell Hale thought a national Thanksgiving would be a source of unity for all Americans, as well as a means of acknowledging the blessings of a bountiful land of liberty.  She pounded Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan with letters urging the establishment of a national Thanksgiving holiday, as a way of encouraging both gratitude and unity.  They ignored her.  Abraham Lincoln did not.  When he received her letter in September 1863, just months after the carnage at Gettysburg, Lincoln saw the wisdom of her suggestion, and proclaimed the last Thursday in November an annual holiday.

A splendid children’s book on Sarah Hale has not yet been written.  But teachers and children will find her extraordinary life and efforts profiled in two accounts.  The former is lively but light. The latter is more substantive.

thank youThank You, Sarah:  The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving
Laurie Halse Anderson.  Illustrated by Matt Faulkner. 
Simon and Schuster, 2005  (K-3)

The bouncy “superheroine” approach in this picture book tends to portray Sarah Hale as a caricature of herself (she becomes a bit of a stubborn, willful, quill-wielding nag.) But young children will at least meet this noteworthy woman, and learn of her wide-ranging efforts.

 

petticoats

 

More than Petticoats:  Remarkable New Hampshire Women
Gail Underwood Parker. 
Morris Book Publishing, 2009, pages 22-35.  (4-6)

A solid overview of her life in a readable twelve pages, but without illustrations