This week we recognize and remember our more than twenty million American veterans. Our geographical good fortune (i.e., to be situated between two oceans, Canada and Mexico) sometimes makes it easier for us as American citizens to forget that our current freedoms have come at a human cost and require our constant vigilance.
The forthcoming picture book A Splash of Red: The Art and Life of Horace Pippin, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is dedicated to our veterans and explores the pre- and post-war journey of a self-taught artist and WWI veteran from West Chester, Pennsylvania. His all-black infantry unit endured more than 190 days of unbroken combat in the trenches, fields, and forests of France, earning them the name “Hellfighters.”
Pippin was severely wounded in battle and returned home with a metal plate in his right arm. To rehabilitate himself both physically and psychologically, he painted for hours by holding his right wrist in his left hand.
Later this week at NCTE in Las Vegas, I’ll be part of a panel on War and Literature featuring BYU professor Chris Crowe and Dean Hughes, author of Soldier Boys, Missing in Action, and Search and Destroy. Our discussion will include the portrayal of war in classic, children’s and young adult literature, the effect of war on those left behind, and strategies for talking about war in the classroom.
Whatever else you do this week, please pause to thank and remember those who have served.