Once A Shepherd -- Book Review -- a book to talk about war and veterans

Disclosure: Candlewick Press gave me a copy of this book free of charge to review. All opinions in my review are my own and I did not receive any other compensation. As in all my reviews I am providing links for your ease, but receive no compensation.

Yesterday was Veteran's Day here in the United States. I usually try to do something to celebrate it by thanking our veterans and their families. Although I like to thank them all the time and think they deserve thanks all year long. This year Hazel and I were visiting my parents for our long weekend. (Hazel had Monday and Tuesday off of school.) I did not really have much planned for a Veteran's Day post or activity. However when I came home I received a box of books from Candlewick Press and it included the perfect introduction book to start a conversation about soldiers,war, loss due to war and recovering from that loss. The book is Once A Shepherd by Glenda Millard.

Once a Shepherd tells the story of a shepherd who lives peacefully and happily with his sheep and then his wife. His wife becomes pregnant and then the shepherd must leave to fight in a war. His wife makes him a special jacket to wear. The shepherd stops to help a fallen enemy soldier and is killed. The fallen enemy soldier brings the shepherd's jacket back to his wife after the war is over. She tears it up in rage and sadness and then makes a toy lamb out of it for her baby boy. 

The text of the book is simple and not frightening, and the pictures are beautiful. Upon reading the story, I asked Hazel if she understood what happened and she did not. She really has no idea of war, so it was hard for her to understand. It opened the door for us to talk about war and what it means to be a veteran. She of course does not understand why anyone must go to war like World War II. We talked about reasons some countries go to war and why our country has in the past. We talked about the draft and what it means. She has heard about soldiers and armed forces as we mention them in our nightly prayers, but all she understood is that they protect us. She has seen me thank armed forces when we see them in their uniforms or have a piece of clothing with the branch on it. At school the students put flags out by the road for Veteran's Day and see a slideshow. But with all of these things she did not truly understand what it meant to be a veteran and certainly did not understand what war is. This book began the conversation to start her understanding these difficult topics.

After our conversation I asked her what we could do to celebrate Veteran's Day. We talked about sending a thank you to the marine we know. In the past we have sent letters and pictures of thanks to soldiers through different organizations and we send Christmas/holiday cards each year. For ideas to support our troops, check out this website with links to different organizations that will send cards and gifts on to the troops. Operation We Care also has a list of links and descriptions of each program. You can also contact your local Red Cross to see if they are collecting cards for the Holiday Mail for Heroes Program

I hope you will join me in thanking our veterans and check out Once a Shepherd and start the conversation with your children!