Prather’s Pick: Remembering our veterans
November 10, 2015
Each year on Veterans Day, people of all ages pause to remember and honor the veterans who have kept our country free. This week's featured book for kids (and adults, too) reminds readers of how many sacrifices veterans make so that we can enjoy our freedoms.
Author Margot Theis Raven is the author of "America's White Table," a beautifully written picture book based on the tradition of the "white table." The book was illustrated by Mike Benny and is published by Sleeping Bear Press (2005).
As the story opens, a mother and her three daughters are setting up a "little white table." Ten-year-old Katie is the narrator of the story. A little table is placed at one side of the room. It is a special gift for Uncle John, a veteran, who is coming to dinner on Veterans Day.
Mother explains that the little table is like the ones that have set in the American dining halls of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force since the Vietnam War. The table, also known as the MIA/POW table, stands as a symbol of missing or captive service members. (An Author's Note at the end of the book summarizes the history of the "white table.")
The small table represents one soldier's lonely battle against many. The white cloth represents the soldier's pure heart. The girls place a plate holding a lemon slice and some grains of salt on the table. These stand for the captive soldier's bitter fate and the tears of a family waiting.
Next, they set the table with a black napkin to represent the sorrow of captivity and an overturned glass to represent a meal that won't be eaten. A white candle stands for peace and a red rose in a vase represents hope that all of the missing soldiers will return home.
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As the story proceeds, the words "It was just a little white table…" appear in italics at the top parts of most of the pages, repeating a powerful message for the reader.
After the table is set, a chair is pushed up to the table and tipped, to represent soldiers who aren't there. Then Mother tells the girls about what happened to Uncle John when he was in Vietnam. It is a story they have never heard before. Afterwards they decide to prepare three gifts for the table in order to honor the veterans.
Samantha writes out the words to "My Country 'Tis of Thee," Gretchen draws the items on the table, and Katie spends some time in thought before coming up with a touching gift.
This is a very special book that is a must read for kids and adults. (I had never heard of the "white table" tradition before I reviewed the book.)
The hardcover book costs $16.85 or you can find the book at the Craig Moffat County Library.