"Then in the salt on the little white table... I traced in the grains of their families' tears what each man and woman who serves America is to me, a ... Hero." - America's White Table by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Mike Benny
Staff Sgt. Amy Krueger, a Wisconsin soldier, had an American flag tattooed to her back with the following words, "All gave some. Some gave all. Sacrifice." She was one of 13 people killed in the shooting at Fort Hood last week. Veterans Day is a day to honor all those servicemen and women who give so much in order to protect our freedom. They indeed sacrifice much and deserve our deepest appreciation and respect.
America's White Table is a powerful and moving picture book to share with children and help them understand the sacrifice involved in serving our nation. The book introduces a military tradition of setting a white table [also called POW/MIA Missing Man Table or remembrance table] as a way to remember and symbolize service members, especially those held captive or missing in action. Author Margot Theis Raven describes this touching and poignant ceremony by telling a story from the viewpoint of a little girl named Katie. While Katie helps set a little white table on Veterans Day, her mother explains the importance and meaning behind the tradition and also tells them about their Uncle John's act of heroism as a POW in Vietnam. In the end, Katie, in her own special way, pays tribute to and honors her uncle and all those soldiers who have sacrificed so much for her freedom.
"We use a small table, girls," she explained first, "to show one soldier's lonely battle against many. We cover it with a white cloth to honor a soldier's pure heart when he answers his country's call to duty.
We place a lemon slice and grains of salt on a plate to show a captive soldier's bitter fate and the tears of families waiting for loved ones to return," she continued.
We push an empty chair to the table for the missing soldiers who are not here..."
According to the author's note in the back of the book, the tradition of setting a white table originated during the time of the Vietnam War by a group of airman called the Red River Valley Pilots Association. The symbols on the table may vary depending on the ceremony.
Benny's softly hued illustrations convey the variety emotions brought on by this solemn tribute. The words of "My County 'Tis of Thee" grace the background of the pages, bringing even more meaning to the text. The story and images brought tears to my eyes, and my family will certainly make reading this story an annual tradition. America's White Table is perfect to share at home, especially during Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Many schools have also used Raven's book in their Veteran's Day commemorations, with students setting their own white tables. The story could also be incorporated in teacher's lesson plans and used to supplement units about the Vietnam War and prisoners of war.
America's White Table by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Mike Benny. Sleeping Bear Press (April 2005); 32 pages; ISBN 9781585362165
Book Source: Review copy provided for free by publisher (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)
Watch this wonderful SchoolTube video from French Town Elementary School about setting a white table on Veterans Day:
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