I love picture books that make me laugh. And those that make me cry. It’s nearly impossible, though, to find one book that does both. Nearly impossible. But then there’s this one:
First, a quick synopsis: Caleb is stumped. For a school project, he’s supposed to create something that represents patriotism for a Parents’ Night display. But how do you do that? After all…
Patriotism wasn’t something you could draw, like a tree or a spaceship or a crocodile. He was good at drawing crocodiles. Why couldn’t they be having a Crocodile Celebration?
That makes me laugh. Then Linda adds a little pressure. Caleb’s classmates don’t seem to be having any trouble coming up with ideas. His friend Jake is writing a poem about America. But…
“I don’t think anything rhymes with America, though. Maybe I’ll write a poem about the states.” He started writing. “Wonder what’s more poetic – crates, gates, or skates?”
That cracks me up, too. As do Caleb’s thoughts when he learns that Molly is dressing up as the Statue of Liberty, complete with fireworks (so she thinks)…
Fireworks? Sparklers? Caleb groaned. Maybe he could tell Mrs. Perkins he would be sick on Parents’ Night. He was coming down with a cold. Or a broken leg.
Linda sprinkles these little giggles throughout the story. Later, still worrying, Caleb is in his room at home, wishing his dad were there to help him with his project. “He would know that patriotism is more than a map or a statue.” That’s when Caleb figures out what to do.
Skip to Caleb and his mom in his classroom, enjoying Parents’ Night. They’re looking at the various projects, but a crowd has gathered around Caleb’s desk. He goes over to explain…
“That’s a picture of my dad in his uniform,” Caleb said proudly. “Patriotism means going away from your family even if you have to miss Parents’ Night. It means keeping everyone in the United States safe.” He smiled and gently touched the picture. “My dad taught me to love my country.”
And then, when you’re already softened up and feeling a little mushy … the whammy.
“My dad is patriotism.”
This is when I choke up. Every time. I don’t presently have a family member in the service, but I’ve seen this book read by those who do, and to report that they’re deeply, deeply touched is an understatement. And this isn’t even the end of the story – Linda saves a last giggle, then winds it all up with another lump-in-the-throat moment. *whew*
If you’ve never seen this one, make sure you find it. It’s one of my own personal mentor texts, inspiring me to make my work richer and deeper and more touching. I can dream.
So are there books that yank you back and forth between laughter and tears? Tell me about them.