Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops by Jill Biden and illustrated by Raul Colon ($16.99, Simon & Schuster, ages 5 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
“Does Daddy have to go?” is the question young Natalie poses as her father, a soldier, gets ready for deployment. Based on the true events of her granddaughter, Natalie, Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops is Jill Biden’s tribute to the courage not only of the American troops but also to the families they leave behind.
We read along as Natalie faces the challenges of missing her father through milestones, holidays and simple, everyday life. At school and in the community, Natalie is reminded of her father, but perhaps the most difficult times are the ones at home. Natalie sits on the floor of her room with stuffed animals around her. Her dolls are here. Her books are here. Even her dog, Webbie, is here. But one thing isn’t here. Daddy isn’t here.
Natalie isn’t the only one to miss her father; her brother, Hunter, and mother also must come to terms with his absence. Luckily, Natalie and her family have friends, extended family and neighbors nearby to help. So many people are kind to the family. Yesterday the neighbors brought over a homemade pizza. Today Dad’s friend Alex is shoveling the sidewalk. “Your dad is sure helping the country,” Alex says. “I want to help too!”
The book includes many additional sections: the Author’s Note, About Our Military, How You Can Help and Tips for Kids. Here readers learn facts such as 1% of the American population is in military service and 1.9 million children (up to 18 years old) are children of military personnel. There is a list of national organizations that provide information and volunteer opportunities to help military families. Lastly, children are provided ideas and suggestions for helping fellow students who have military parents.
In Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops, Dr. Biden reminds us how the families of soldiers must also sacrifice to help our country. They must live with the absence of a loved one, live with the fear that the worst may happen, and yet still try to live life as normally as possible. Dr. Biden also reminds us that simple acts of kindness can have long reaching effects. The book is an effective tool to help young readers learn how to look outside of themselves and help others when they can, even if by saying a simple, “Hello.”