Friday, December 21, 2012

The Soldiers' Night Before Christmas by Trish Holland and Christine Ford

The Soldiers' Night Before Christmas by Trish Holland and Christine Ford, illustrated by John Manders

Rating: 4.5 stars

First nerdy confession of the day: I'd like to see how many versions there are of Twas A Night Before Christmas.  I'd like to check them all out and pile them up high and read them, one by one, all in a row.  I am confident that one exists for every constituency group out there, with inside jokes tucked away inside the familiar verse.  I love it!

I recently reviewed The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas for Washington FAMILY magazine, a local resource for the Northern Virginia area.  (Read my review here.)  I thought I had seen it all when I flipped through and saw a special ops team fast rope down to rescue Santa!  But then, in Barnes & Noble, I saw the cover of this book and picked up two copies.  I didn't need to read them first--I knew I needed one for my sister's family, and one for my (retired Ranger) dad.

This book started out with a row of soldiers asleep, one sleeping with a rifle ("What's a rifle, Mommy?"), in their bunk.  The clatter that awoke them was a Blackhawk ("What's a Blackhawk, Mommy?") and eight Humvees ("What's a Humvee, Mommy?"  Look at this vocabulary building!) decked out with tinsel and lights.  Santa is fierce drill sergeant with a chewed up cigar hanging from his tough lips, and the reindeer are the drivers of said Humvees.

I know this book is not for every family.  Even while I am fine with these new vocabulary words because they are part of my family's lexicon, I know there are a lot of good reasons not to show kids pictures of rifles and cigars.

But as soon as my own chuckle started rolling, the book took a serious turn.  Sergeant McClaus walks in with a big bag of loot, presents for the troops from their families.  My eyes were immediately misty.
Tasty gifts from old friends in the helmets he laid.
There were candies, and cookies, and cakes, all homemade.
Many parents sent phone cards so soldiers could hear
Treasured voices and laughter of those they held dear. 
Loving husbands and wives had mailed photos galore
Of weddings and birthdays and first steps and more.
And for each soldier's boot, like a warm, happy hug,
There was art from the children at home sweet and snug.
Sniff, sniff.  There are many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines away from home this holiday season, working hard so that our children can remain sweet and snug in their beds, blissfully ignorant of the messy and violent parts of world.  I love that this book allows kids to recognize their service.  This book ends how I'd like this entry to end:
Happy Christmas, brave soldiers!  May peace come to all!
(And thank you. so very much, for your service, brave soldiers.)

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