Prather’s Pick: A heartwarming book

Diane Prather
Diane Prather

Before getting to this week’s heartwarming picture book, I want to let readers know that my husband Lyle and I drove to Steamboat Springs on Wednesday night to attend a talk and book signing by author Craig Johnson. He has written 11 books in the Longmire series and has another book coming out in May.

Lyle has read all 11 books — twice. I have read two of them that were reviewed in this column. Lyle and I got hooked on the Longmire television series.

On Wednesday night we arrived an hour early, and it was a good thing. People were already lined up, waiting to go into library hall. About 150 people attended the event, and there was standing room only.

The talk and question and answer period flew by! Johnson is a gifted storyteller. He’s entertaining, humorous and down to earth. If you get a chance to attend one of his book signings, don’t pass up the opportunity.

You can find his books and Longmire DVDs at the Bud Werner Memorial Library (where we went on Wednesday) and the Craig Moffat County Library. You can purchase the books at Downtown Books in Craig and at Off the Beaten Path in Steamboat. His newest book is available at stores that have displays of current bestsellers.

Last week I noticed a new Patricia Polacco book in the children’s room at the Craig Moffat County Library. “Tucky Jo and Little Heart” is based on a true story that Johnnie Wallen, a decorated soldier who served in World War II, related to Patricia Polacco before he died in 2010 at the age of 85. Because of the book’s content, I think that adults will enjoy it, too.

Johnnie was known as the “kid from Kentucky” because he was only fifteen when he enlisted in the army. After basic training, he was assigned to the Sixth Infantry, Company G, Twentieth Division. The company was deployed to the Pacific theater.

As a kid, Johnnie learned to shoot. He was good at it; he was a sharp shooter. It didn’t take his sergeant to find out just how good Johnnie was, and he was assigned to a special unit that went into the jungle to seek out and destroy machine gun nests and outposts.

Eventually, Johnnie’s outfit was sent to Luzon in the Philippines to clear the jungle for an air strip. The conditions were terrible. Bugs bit Johnnie, leaving stinging welts. He was miserable.

One day he came upon a village next to a river. As he stood looking at it, he felt as if someone was standing behind him. She was a tiny girl who noticed his welts. The girl pulled a leaf off a plant, broke it apart, and put the inside goo on one of Johnnie’s welts. He got immediate relief. The little girl had a heart birthmark on her arm so Johnnie named her Little Heart. The little girl called him Tucky Jo.

The village people didn’t have food so Johnnie helped them, taking some of his K rations to them. He helped them get fish and fresh meat, and eventually the unit’s sergeant helped out, too.

When the jungle was being bombed and the infantry had to evacuate, they took the villagers with them. That was the last time Johnnie saw Little Heart. However, that’s not the end of the story.

Polacco is a well-known author-illustrator who has written a lot of books, some about her family who came from Russia and Ireland.

This week’s book is a Paula Wiseman Book, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (2015). You can find “Tucky Jo and Little Heart” at the Craig Moffat County Library or you can purchase it for $17.99 in hardcover.

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