I was recently given a copy of Cooper and Me and the Military to review. I couldn’t say no. I’m always looking for books that can help my children relate to our current situation – a deployment.
If you aren’t familiar with Cooper and Me, it is a series of books written and illustrated by (now) 13 year old Alexa Peters with a little help from her mother. Alexa has always loved to write stories and draw pictures about her experiences as a means of expressing her feelings. The mission of the Cooper and Me series is to both entertain young children and help them gain emotional resilience as they navigate the challenges of everyday living.
Cooper and Me and the Military covers the topic of deployment. Alexa Peters was inspired to write a story about family friends that were separated by deployment. We are introduced to Cooper’s best friend Trooper and his owners, Joe and Gracie. Joe and Gracie’s parents are deployed and Trooper was once a working military dog. The kids both miss their parents, so they think of things to do to keep in touch and to help them feel better about the separation.
The kids in the book write letters and send care packages to their parents. My kids and I do the same thing. The book covers the kid’s feelings and their parent’s feelings, something kids may not always think about. After I read the book, my son and I discussed it. There are discussion questions at the end to help with this. He understood about Joe and Gracie being away from their parents and he had lots of questions about the dog. This is probably a great read for anyone getting ready for a deployment or if close friends are deployed. We will definitely be adding this to the regular books we read.
When Alice Bliss learns that her father, Matt, is being deployed to Iraq, she’s heartbroken. Alice idolizes her father, loves working beside him in their garden, accompanying him on the occasional roofing job, playing baseball. When he ships out, Alice is faced with finding a way to fill the emptiness he has left behind.
Matt will miss seeing his daughter blossom from a tomboy into a full- blown teenager. Alice will learn to drive, join the track team, go to her first dance, and fall in love, all while trying to be strong for her mother, Angie, and take care of her precocious little sister, Ellie. But the smell of Matt is starting to fade from his blue shirt that Alice wears everyday, and the phone calls are never long enough.
I started this book with no great expectations. I’m a military spouse, so I know how the story goes right? Not quite. The story is told from the point of view of a 15 year old girl. Her father is in the Army Reserve. The military is not a basic part of their life. They don’t live in a military town. He finds out he is going to Iraq and understandably so, his family is upset. His wife has a seriously hard time. Alice has to deal with her father being gone while trying to be a normal teenager. Her best friend has suddenly become popular, while her best childhood friend, who happens to be a boy, starts getting feelings for her. She tries to take over the household chores of her father, but her mother doesn’t understand it and that, coupled with other things, puts a strain on their relationship.
She wears her father’s clothes, sits by the phone waiting for it to ring, cherishes his letters, and spends hours in his workshop. All things any spouse would do if their husband was deployed. It’s a little different when it’s your dad though. Going through Alice’s thoughts and seeing how she deals with no one understanding her, and not just in the typical teenage fashion, you can’t help but feel for the girl and all the family goes through.
I read this book pretty fast, considering I had no expectations for it. It ended up being much better than I expected. We all know the ins and outs of the military, but when you are thrown into it from the civilian world, it can be a scary thing. I have friends whose husbands deployed with the National Guard or Reserve. On one hand, they are surrounded by all that is familiar, including family and friends, but on the other, they are thrown into the ultimate scariest thing, which they have little to no knowledge of.
When I was sent the book, it was already registered at Bookcrossing.com. Now all I have to do, is pass the book on. I’ve thought about where to leave it, but can seem to come up with a good place. I’m afraid that someone will just trash it. Any ideas?
I read a lot, but have yet to write about a book on my blog. This book was so good and hit so close to home that I have to share.
“Liz and Mike O’Reilly’s marriage weathers the Vietnam War, a well-crafted but somewhat timeworn story about a military family’s stoicism in the field and on the home front. Capt. Michael O’Reilly, USMC, ships out from Okinawa for Da Nang, while back home in Detroit, where the streets are afire from the 1967 riots, a pregnant Liz struggles alone to raise their four children. Mike is “turned toward battle like a plant toward the sun,” but Liz quietly curses the Marine Corp and draws on hidden reserves of strength to be a good Catholic wife and mother. As commander of a beleaguered company in Vietnam, Mike is badly wounded and further strains the marriage when he returns to combat instead of coming home. Meanwhile, a near miscarriage in her third trimester almost costs Liz her life, but she decides to keep the baby rather than guarantee her own survival. Farrington’s graceful prose moves the engaging narrative along at a brisk clip, but tough, noble Mike and tough, big-hearted Liz remain mired in type. The result is a compassionate but unambitious novel about enduring marital love and family ties during wartime from an author who was willing to take greater risks in his earlier works.”
The author managed to cover everything. He told the story from Lizzie’s and her husband Mike’s side. Lizzie is at home with 4 kids and another on the way. She deals with the kids acting out, a friend’s husband dying in Vietnam, and the usual bad wife and mother feelings. Mike starts out in Okinawa, but is quickly sent to Vietnam. I like that we hear both sides of their story. We can relate to a lot of what Lizzie goes through, hating the military, hating the war, praying she doesn’t get that knock on her door, and dealing with everything by herself.