Teaching children about war and mental illness is a challenge at best, so imagine this -- a children’s book narrated by a Golden Retriever that tackles war and mental illness while emphasizing good oral hygiene and the important role of service dogs.
“Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and his Service Dog” (by Luis Montalván with Bret Witter, photography by Dan Dion, Roaring Book Press for Kindergarten through Grade 4) does just that in a loving, kind, funny and beautiful way.
Children’s books in the modern day were introduced to teach them about learning fundamentals, language, shapes, color and basic math concepts. But Tuesday Tucks Me In teaches America’s youngest readers what it is like to be an injured Iraq veteran’s service dog.
Tuesday Tucks Me In is narrated by an adorable Golden Retriever named Tuesday and he tells the reader how he spends his day with Luis. Luis is former Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván, author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him.”
Wonderful, warm, well-shot photos take the reader, whether child or adult, through Luis’ day along with Tuesday’s narration. Opening the book is a delight, because the first thing you see is the same thing Luis sees first thing in the morning, Tuesday’s golden snout. And the reader is left with the last image of Luis and Tuesday saying their prayers at the end of their day.
The text is well coordinated with the photos and draws the reader in to share Luis and Tuesday’s day together. Children, especially though who are a little shy with reading, will be absorbed by the photo and text interplay, enhancing the child reader’s ability to form and understand the words.
Tuesday Tucks Me In is more than an entertaining children’s book. Luis and Tuesday teach kids about difficult issues like war and mental health in a gentle and thoughtful way.
Groups like Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR) suggest children should be taught about war and mental health issues in a responsible way. Subjects like the war in Afghanistan, the current escalation of violence in Iraq and returning soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are covered in the news daily and many children are exposed to those broadcasts.
According to ESR, many children as young as four and five years of age would value speaking with trusted adults about what they hear in the news, and reading Tuesday Tucks Me In with young children is an excellent way to open the door to discussing war and PTSD. Educating young children about armed overseas conflicts and the physical and mental health after burn sensitizes these future leaders at an early age about the long lasting effects of war.
Becky Hartlaub wrote a Goodreads review of Tuesday Tucks Me In, “My 14 month old grandson saw the cover and went woof, woof. Then he bent his head down and kissed Tuesday.” Ms. Hartlaub’s grandson, and children just like him, will be making world-affecting decisions 30 years from now. Exposure to books like Tuesday Tucks Me In gives these now-children, then decision makers, a much better basis for understanding a war’s consequences.
There are many good reasons for both children and adults to enjoy Tuesday Tucks Me In. Intellectualizing aside, what I like best about the book is that every time I read it, I feel like Tuesday is tucking me in too.