Poppies, Poppies Everywhere

8 November 2022

Poppies, Poppies Everywhere!
by Denise Leduc, Illustrated by Breanne Taylor
Published by Lilac Arch Press
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$15.99 ISBN 9781778286919

Some writers make it look easy. Such is the case with Aylesbury, Saskatchewan writer Denise Leduc, who recently published Poppies, Poppies Everywhere!, a well-written children’s story that seamlessly explains the importance of Remembrance Day via a grandmother and her granddaughter, Charlotte.

It’s “a frosty November day,” but young Charlotte wants to go to the playground. “It had monkey bars and slides, her two favourite things!” Her grandma—depicted uncharacteristically and attractively with long grey hair and in trendy, rolled-up, stovepipe jeans—has other ideas. It’s Remembrance Day, and the woman leads Charlotte across the park to purchase commemorative poppies. “You wear it close to your heart,” she tells her still miffed granddaughter. After hot chocolate in a coffee shop—Louisiana-based illustrator Breanne Taylor shows Charlotte kneeling on her chair, as a child might—Grandma explains that they’re going to attend “a ceremony to show we care.”

It’s noteworthy that Leduc’s not fallen for the easy shortcut of naming emotions in this important story. When “Charlotte touched the poppy on her coat,” we know what she is feeling. Through descriptive writing, we experience the collective quiet when the mayor presents at the WW1 memorial: “The mayor stood at a podium and talked into the microphone. Everyone was suddenly so quiet you could hear leaves rustle on the breeze.” When a soldier plays “The Last Post” on his bugle, “Charlotte squeezed Grandma’s warm hand,” and when the chimes rang out the eleventh hour, some people “had a tear or two shimmer on their cheeks.”

These descriptive details elevate the story and demonstrate respect—not only for those who fought for Canada’s freedom, but also for the readers of this book. The writer is essentially saying: I don’t need to spell everything out for the children who read this. They are smart enough to comprehend what Charlotte is feeling. Bravo.

And kudos to artist Breanne Taylor for making the story inclusive: multigenerational characters from various cultures and with different physical abilities are portrayed at the parade and ceremony, where naturally there are “poppies, poppies everywhere!” (I also spotted the dog Charlie Bow, from Leduc’s excellent Letting Charlie Bow Go, at the parade.)

Through the both solemn and joyful Remembrance Day event, Charlotte not only learns why it’s important to honour our veterans, but she also very much feels it. And that is one smart Grandma for gently guiding her through the experience.

After the story’s satisfying ending, the author’s included helpful “Questions for Discussion” to encourage children’s independent thoughts and spark further research into Remembrance Day, ie: “Why are we silent for two whole minutes?” There’s also a page of Remembrance Day Activities, ie: “Find and learn a Remembrance Day poem” and “Thank a veteran.” Such good ideas. Such a smart idea for a children’s book.

Leduc, who moved to Saskatchewan from Ontario, also writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. She’s the founder of the registered charity Prairie Bear Books, which “[brings] books to children and youth through community partnerships.” Learn more at www.prairiebearbooks.org.


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