Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops

Illustrated by Raúl Colón
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About The Book

Inspired by her own granddaughter Natalie, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, tells a story through a child’s eyes of what family life is like when a parent is at war across the world.

When her father leaves for a year of being at war, Natalie knows that she will miss him. Natalie is proud of her father, but there is nothing to stop her from wishing he was home. Some things do help her feel better. Natalie works with her Nana to send her dad and the other service men and women cookies and treats they have made. Natalie, her mom, and her brother can see and talk to Dad over the computer, and the kindness of friends at school and at church help her feel supported and loved. But there is nothing like the day when her Dad comes home at last.

Reading Group Guide

A Simon & Schuster Parent/Teacher Discussion Guide to accompany

Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops
by Jill Biden, illustrated by Raúl Colón

Reading Group Guide created by Simon & Schuster
Choose the questions and activities that work best with the age and interests of the child or class you are sharing this book with.

Discussion Questions
This is a story about how a young girl deals with missing her father, a soldier away on active military duty. It celebrates the bravery and patience of military families and the kindness of neighbors and friends.

1. Why do you think the author titled the book Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops? Do you think it has any special meaning or tells you something about the message of the book?

2. Do you know any kids who have family members in the military? Are their family members home or serving in another country?

3. Imagine you have a family member in the military—a mother, father, aunt, uncle, or cousin. What do you think that would be like?

4. How does reading Natalie’s story make you feel?

5. Natalie was called upon to be brave. Were you ever brave? Talk about it.

6. Natalie was also called upon to be patient. Did you ever have to be patient? Talk about it.

7. What was the voice that whispered to Natalie, “Be brave?” Do you have any voice inside you? If so, what does it say? Whose voice do you think it is?

8. When Natalie goes to church, she sees her father’s name on a list of soldiers whom people will pray for. Why do you think that made Natalie feel better?

9. Many people were kind to Natalie and her family. What were some of the things they did? What would you do?

10. Do you live in a community where neighbors help each other?

11. When members of our military serve our country, they are often called upon to make sacrifices—to leave their home, families, and friends as well as face danger. Children and families also make sacrifices. How does a family deal with the absence of a loved one serving in a foreign land?

12. This book is based on a true story. Does that make a difference? How?

Activities and Projects
1. The pictures in this book are very beautiful and expressive. Try reading the book again just looking at the pictures. Do you notice anything new in the pictures or the story that you didn’t see before? How do the pictures help to tell the story? The story takes place over the course of a year. How do the pictures help to show that?

2. This book is based on a true story. Look at the author’s note and jacket copy to learn more about the people behind the story.

3. There is a drawing of a flag by the real-life Natalie on the endpapers of the book. Create a picture of your own for the book. Create a picture or a poster expressing your feelings about our service members to hang on a classroom or school bulletin board or send to a soldier.

4. Members of the U.S. military are deployed in more than 150 countries, including combat zones like Afghanistan. Look on the Internet and find out some of the countries. Find a map or a globe and locate the counties. Choose a country and learn about it and find out why our service members are there.

5. At the end of the book is a list of things schools and communities can do to support military children. Choose one of them as a project.

6. You can also serve your country and community by simple acts of kindness. Do something kind today.

7. Look at some of the websites at the back of the book. Read some of the stories about military kids and families.

Additional Websites
Look at some of these websites. Learn about Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.

Military Youth on the Move – Elementary School
http://apps.mhf.dod.mil/pls/psgprod/f?p=MYOM:ES0:0:::::
Tips and strategies on coping with new schools and making new friends.

Operation Military Kids
http://www.operationmilitarykids.org/public/home.aspx
The U.S. Army’s collaborative effort with communities to support military children.

Our Military Kids
http://www.ourmilitarykids.org/about-us/
Provides support to families, features military kid of the month.

VA Kids. K-5th
http://www.va.gov/kids/k-5/multicontent.asp?intPageId=2
Links to resources, information, and activities related to the U.S. Government and information about veterans.

Kids.Gov
http://www.kids.gov
Links to resources, information, and activities.

Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids
http://bensguide.gpo.gov/3-5/index.html
Learn about the government, with guide Benjamin Franklin.

Symbols of the U.S. Government—Ben’s Activity Book
http://bensguide.gpo.gov/files/Ben_Activity_webversion.pdf
Crafts, games, coloring.

Memorial Day
http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/memorial-day/
Links, information, activities, coloring, games, crafts about Memorial Day and veterans.

Veteran’s Day
http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/generalinfo/a/veteransday.htm
A history of the holiday.

Veterans Day
http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/veterans-day/
Links, information, activities, and crafts.

Congressional Medal of Honor Society
http://www.cmohs.org/
List of recipients, stories, links.

Home of the Heroes—Just4kidz
http://www.homeofheroes.com/coloringbook/index.html
Medal of Honor Coloring Book.

Recommended Books
Read more about members of our military, heroes, and being brave:

Courage by Bernard Waber
H Is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet by Devin Scillian
Hero Dad by Melinda Hardin
I Pledge Allegiance by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson
Love, Lizzie: Letters to a Military Mom by Lisa Tucker McElroy
Memorial Day Surprise by Theresa Martin Golding
The Wall by Eve Bunting
What is Veteran’s Day? by Elaine Landau

Guide Prepared by Judith Rovenger, Adjunct Professor, Long Island University

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Photograph © Dennis Drenner

Jill Biden, the wife of Vice-President Joe Biden, has long been a strong supporter and advocate for military families. Her eldest son, Beau Biden, Natalie’s father, was deployed to Iraq two years ago. In April 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden joined together to start a national initiative, “Joining Forces,” to encourage Americans to join together to support military families in their communities.  Jill Biden frequently travels across America and abroad to speak to troops and their families. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (June 2012)
  • Length: 40 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442457355
  • Grades: K - 3
  • Ages: 5 - 8

Raves and Reviews

Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops

Jill Biden, illus. by Raúl Colón. S&S/Wiseman, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4424-5735-5
Second lady of the United States Biden turns her family’s experiences into an earnest picture book that encourages support of those serving in the military and their families. Natalie (inspired by Biden’s granddaughter) misses her father desperately when he is deployed. “Soldiers have to do hard things sometimes,” her mother quietly reminds her. But waiting and worrying about her father, and trying to be a strong example for her younger brother, Hunter, are tough. The words “Be brave, Natalie” appear as a frequent refrain as Natalie, Hunter, Mommy, and Nana celebrate holidays and milestones, wishing Daddy could be with them. Packages, prayers, video chats, and kind gestures from friends and neighbors make things a little easier, but nothing can match the joy of the day when Daddy arrives home to his “brave, brave girl.” Colón captures the rhythms of everyday family life at school, church, and elsewhere in his textured, mixed-media compositions, depicting several tender moments of concern and love among family members. Biden also includes an author’s note, information about the military, and tips for how children and adults can reach out to military families. Ages 5–up.

--Publishers Weekly, May 14, 2012

Second Lady Biden delivers a sensitive, non-political account of one family’s deployment.
“Does Daddy really have to go?” are the opening lines in this child’s view of deployment, and they are the first words many children say when their parents tell them of the long separation they are about to suffer. "Daddy is a soldier," is the honest answer Natalie has to process. As the seasons change with Daddy still abroad, the difficulty is obvious. Natalie has to be brave as she waits and waits. She is comforted by the support of her neighbors, the prayers of her church, a sensitive teacher, and playing with her “Daddy Dolls” (GI Joes); video chats with her dad are big events. Colón’s soft brush-and-scratch technique invites the youngest readers in, taking a bit of the edge off the sadness but never turning the story saccharine. Each family facing deployment is unique and faces its own challenges, but Biden nicely touches on the experiences that are common to every family: loneliness, fear, long months of boredom and the paradox that life goes on despite the absence. She wisely leaves out the truly difficult moments: the goodbye scenes, the possibility of injury or death, and the readjustment upon the soldier's return.
Teachers and counselors will reach for this often for the extensive, excellent resources in the backmatter as well as the story. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2012

Biden, wife of the vice president, watched for a year as her granddaughter, Natalie, dealt with the
deployment of her father to Iraq. Using Natalie’s experiences as a springboard, Biden chronicles what life
is like for a child with a parent fighting far from home. Natalie sits on her father’s lap as her mother
explains, “Soldiers have to do hard things sometimes.” So do their children. Natalie has to comfort her
mother and help her younger brother through missing his dad. But there are glimmers of light as well: on
video chat, she shows her father her loose tooth; the family sends care packages overseas; and she
befriends a girl whose parent is also deployed. Connecting each spread are the words, “Be brave, Natalie.”
Through both the sensitive text and the art, there is always the feel of time passing until, finally, Natalie’s
father comes home. As always, Colón’s scratchboard-style art, rendered in watercolor and colored pencil,
invites a closer look. Here readers will see how faith and community help military families. The excellent
back matter gives readers myriad ways that both adults and children can help military families in their own
communities.
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The Second Lady will no doubt attract publicity, and plenty of it.
But even on its own, this book is so full of wonderful ways to help the troops that it is a must for libraries.
— Booklist

Some of us are more susceptible than others, but it’s not uncommon for picture book illustrations to give almost anyone — grown-ups even more perhaps than children — the goose bumps. And no one’s better at eliciting them than Raúl Colón (“Good-Bye, Havana! Hola, New York!,” “Angela and the Baby Jesus”). In “Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops,” his haunting image of a faded soldier standing outside an autumn window, as imagined by the daughter who awaits him at home, is nearly soaked in melancholy. “Daddy’s not here,” she thinks, “as she watches a red leaf drift past the window and out of sight.”

The girl in Colón’s picture is 5-year-old Natalie, who is worried and scared when her father is deployed abroad, leaving his family behind struggling to stay strong. She, her mother and her young brother, Hunter, go through the motions of Thanksgiving and the holidays without him. Whether attending church or losing a tooth or playing with toy soldiers, she is repeatedly urged, “Be brave, Natalie.”

“Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops” was written by Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden. Their son is a major in the Army National Guard. This direct emotional connection to the experience of military families permeates the earnest and heartfelt text. But it is Colón’s illustrations that make the small moments — Hunter brushing away a tear, Natalie kissing a photograph of her father in uniform — so deeply affecting.

-- The New York Times, online

Don't Forget, God Bless Our Troops.
Biden, Jill (Author) , Colon, Raul (Illustrator)
Jun 2012. 40 p. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, hardcover, $16.99. (9781442457355).

Biden, wife of the vice president, watched for a year as her granddaughter, Natalie, dealt with the
deployment of her father to Iraq. Using Natalie’s experiences as a springboard, Biden chronicles what life is like for a child with a parent fighting far from home. Natalie sits on her father’s lap as her mother
explains, “Soldiers have to do hard things sometimes.” So do their children. Natalie has to comfort her
mother and help her younger brother through missing his dad. But there are glimmers of light as well:on
video chat, she shows her father her loose tooth; the family sends care packages overseas; and she
befriends a girl whose parent is also deployed. Connecting each spread are the words, “Be brave, Natalie.” Through both the sensitive text and the art, there is always the feel of time passing until, finally, Natalie’s father comes home. As always, Colón’s scratchboard-style art, rendered in watercolor and colored pencil, invites a closer look. Here readers will see how faith and community help military families. The excellent back matter gives readers myriad ways that both adults and children can help military families in their own communities.

HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY:
The Second Lady will no doubt attract publicity, and plenty of it.
But even on its own, this book is so full of wonderful ways to help the troops that it is a must for libraries.


— Booklist, June 1, 2012

Biden takes inspiration from her own family in relating this story about a five-year-old girl coping with her father’s military deployment. Natalie goes to school, church, the swimming pool, etc., but each activity is underscored by her sadness and anxiety about her dad. The recurring phrase, “Be brave, Natalie,” reminds her that she has a responsibility of her own. The mom or dad is the heroic soldier, but the soldier’s families demonstrate courage as well. The illustrations, done in watercolor, colored pencil, and lithograph pencil, are vibrant and appealing. They capture the emotion of the story but also show that this situation is daily life for many people. The full-page or two-page pictures invite viewers into the frame; there are no borders as barriers to intimacy. While keeping the story at a child-appropriate level, Biden reaches out to military youngsters to help them understand their own feelings and increases awareness for all children about military families in their communities. Back matter provides practical ways to support these families.– School Library Journal

Biden takes inspiration from her own family in relating this story about a five-year-old girl coping with her father’s military deployment. Natalie goes to school, church, the swimming pool, etc., but each activity is underscored by her sadness and anxiety about her dad. The recurring phrase, “Be brave, Natalie,” reminds her that she has a responsibility of her own. The mom or dad is the heroic soldier, but the soldier’s families demonstrate courage as well. The illustrations, done in watercolor, colored pencil, and lithograph pencil, are vibrant and appealing. They capture the emotion of the story but also show that this situation is daily life for many people. The full-page or two-page pictures invite viewers into the frame; there are no borders as barriers to intimacy. While keeping the story at a child-appropriate level, Biden reaches out to military youngsters to help them understand their own feelings and increases awareness for all children about military families in their communities. Back matter provides practical ways to support these families.– School Library Journal

Awards and Honors

  • Library of Congress 52 Great Reads List
  • Children's Crown Gallery Award Nominee

Resources and Downloads

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