Guest Blog Post Book Review: Sometimes We Were Brave

Today's review is written by Barbara Gruener who is an amazing elementary school counselor and past guest blogger on my site.

Author: Pat Brisson
illustrated by France Brassard
Interest Level: Ages 4-9

From the Book Jacket: Jerome's mom is a sailor. When her ship is in home port, she and Jerome bake cookies, read books together, ad take their dog, Duffy, for walks. When his mom's ship goes to sea, she gives Jerome a hug and says, "Be brave, Jerome. I'll be back as soon as I can."

Even though his dad takes good care of him, Jerome misses his mom and worries about her. Jerome doesn't feel brave at all. But he does what he needs to do every day - goes to school, helps his dad with chores, and takes care of Duffy. Then one day he learns that bravery means something very different then he thought it did.

Why It's On My Bookshelf: The first reason it's on my shelf is because Roxanne recommended it!  The second reason is author Pat Brisson penned The Summer My Father Was Ten, one of my all-time favorites.  The third and most important reason is because it is TOPS among illustrated picture books dealing with emotionally-charged and extremely-difficult issues of military service and sacrifice. 

This jewel's author, Pat Brisson, a former elementary school teacher and librarian first became interested in this subject when she traveled to Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Panama and Guantanamo Bay as a visiting author.  She tells me that she was struck "by the sacrifices expected of these children, who didn't volunteer, but are still giving service to their country by doing without the presence of a parent at very important times in their lives,"  which accounts for her uncanny ability to tackle the deployment of a parent head-on, with grace and sensitivity.  Telling the tale first-person-narrative style lends authenticity and credibility to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of a boy (and his dog) trying to show courage, but struggling with missing their mom.  It's just SO real:  sometimes they have bad days, sometimes they get surprises, sometimes they have accidents, sometimes they get treats, sometimes they are afraid.

Complemented by amazingly gentle and strikingly soft illustrations, Sometimes We Were Brave will comfort and validate students whose parents are on active duty and serving in scary, far-away places and will undoubtedly stir up compassion and caring in the hearts of their friends and classmates.  We can't do enough for these families while their parent or loved one is away.  At our school, we offer preschool free of charge to kids like Jerome.  Last year, we partnered with Starbucks to send a shipment of coffee to Luke's dad, who was serving in Iraq.  Trained by the Military Child Education Coalition, I offer counseling support for these students.  We also pair them with a high-school Peer Assistance and Leadership (PAL) student for weekly visits. 

Each year in November, we study the branches of the military in preparation for Veterans Day, and we all write letters and draw pictures to send to soldiers overseas to salute, honor, and thank them for keeping us safe and free.  This year along with our letters, we sent 129 care-package APO boxes to Iraq and Afghanistan to spread holiday cheer to our heroes.  A few years back, we actually wrote letters to local families of fallen soldiers so that they, too, could be comforted and know we will always remember.  Check out this amazing book, it's a perfect companion for any or all of these ideas! 

video of Barbara and her students putting together Christmas packages for the front lines.

Very Helpful Resources:
Students at the Center
Military Child Education Coalition
Operation Military Kids

More About This Elementary School Counselor Extraordinaire:
Barbara Gruener is an elementary school counselor at Westwood Elementary. Barbara is a published author whose work has appeared in magazines such as Teaching Tolerance, Teaching K-8, and Daughters. She also has an IMPRESSIVE web page called The Counselor's Corner and writes for the website Character Counts.

A Link to This Book:

1 comment

  1. This is a good story. I am happy that the teacher from the grade school who is also a counselor is able to share this story. I would love to share this to my nephews and nieces.