Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans

Barbara Elizabeth Walsh
Illustrator:  Layne Johnson 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Boyds Mills Press, 2012   ISBN: 978-1590787540

In 1914 Moina Belle Michael was touring Europe when World War I broke out and she saw for herself how horrific the battlefields were. By 1917 Moina was back home teaching at the University of Georgia when she saw that President Wilson was asking Congress to allow the United States to join the conflict. She dreaded what this might mean for her students. The girls would see their male relatives, friends, and sweethearts going off to war, and the young innocent men would find out for themselves how terrible war can be.

As soon as war was declared, Moina decided that she had to do something to help. She began by knitting socks and sweaters and by rolling bandages. Wanting to do more, she went to the military camps and delivered books, magazines, and candy to the soldiers who were waiting to be shipped out. When it was time for the soldiers to leave, Moina was on the train station platform to see them off.

Still not satisfied that she was doing enough, Moina went to New York City and she ended up setting up a recreation room in the basement of one Columbia University’s buildings. She brightened the gloomy room with flowers, and young men and women who would soon be crossing the “submarine-infested Atlantic” and experiencing “the gas, bombs and shrapnel of the battle front” came to the room to relax and socialize.

Then Moina read a poem written by a young Canadian doctor. The poem “We shall not sleep,” so moved her that she added a verse to the end. In her five lines of verse she made a promise to those who would not be coming home, and from this verse came an idea that would have a profound effect on how people would honor, remember and support veterans.

This powerful picture book biography serves as a moving tribute to a woman who did her best to help others. The author’s own father was one of the young men who met Moina and who was touched by her kindness. His stories about Moina encouraged the author to find out more about the “Poppy Lady” who was beloved by countless soldiers.

At the back of the book the author provides readers with further information about Moina, her legacy, and more.