The Poppy Lady

If you've wondered at all about how the red poppies associated with Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day came to be, you’ve probably thought of Lt. Colonel John McCrae’s poem, “We Shall Not Sleep.” It concludes with the memorable line, “We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.” You would be partially right.

In her book The Poppy Lady, published by Calkins Creek and illustrated by Layne Johnson, Barbara Elizabeth Walsh tells the story of Moina Belle Michael. Concern for soldiers led Moina to join efforts to knit socks and sweaters.

Wanting to do more becomes a theme in the book. She rolled bandages for the Red Cross. She formed personal relationships with the soldiers and gave them a small remembrance as they headed overseas. She trained to become a canteen worker and established a place for soldiers to come and relax when they had time off.

Reading John McCrae’s poem led her to her most lasting contribution to soldiers and their families just two days before the war’s end. She went on a poppy hunt in New York, finding twenty-four small silk poppies and one large one. She wrote her own promise of a continuing remembrance in a response verse to “We Shall Not Sleep.”

This picture book includes well-researched additional resources in the back matter, making it a good choice also for older children and adults who are interested in the origin of the poppies distributed on Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day by the VFW, its Ladies Auxiliary, and the American Legion. As a bonus, a portion of the book’s proceeds support the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple which benefits children of the U. S. military.

I recommend reading the book and John McCrae’s poem together.