It is not the usual purpose of this blog site to review children’s books, particularly a children’s book geared to first or second graders, but this one, First Lady Edith Wilson and HOW THE SHEEP HELPED WIN THE WAR, by Joyce Covey and Farron Smith, is worthy of an exception.
First of all, it is produced by and for and with proceeds going to the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation and Museum in Wytheville, VA. It is one of the very few historic sites dedicated to a First Lady. Not surprisingly, small historic sites have fallen on hard times both financially and in visitorship. As a firm believer in historic places being one of the ideal ways to present history in an appealing way, I consider it a privilege to do my small part in helping out.
Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, Sheep/War is a perfect example of what some educators call “integrated” reading. Since I am not an educator by discipline, I do not get overly excited by specious verbiage, however, in layman’s terms, Sheep/War teaches reading AND history concurrently. You learn to read, by learning to read something of substance. They used to do that in the olden days. Children learned the alphabet via Bible stories; they learned sentences via Aesop’s Fables, which taught morality and ethics at a level for youngsters. Not a bad idea.
Authors Covey and Smith present a brief story about Edith Bolling Wilson, the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson, who was President of the United States a hundred years ago. The story centers around a fairly well known (then) episode during World War I. Mrs. Wilson purchased a flock of sheep to graze on the White House lawn. It served three good purposes, according to the authors: first, the sheep kept the lawn trimmed naturally, or as they put it for seven year olds, served as the White House lawn mowers. Secondly, it freed the gardening staff for more important war work. And thirdly, when the sheep were sheared, a pound of their wool was sent to each state to be auctioned off for War Bonds. It is said that several thousands of dollars were raised that way.
Those are fine reasons, of course, but there is another one that adults will understand immediately. Edith Wilson was very savvy to the power of the press. She knew the sheep would be a good human interest story, and it would reinforce the commitment of the President and First Lady to personally support the war effort – just like they were asking the rest of the country to do.
Sheep/War is a slim volume geared to very-youngsters, filled with both real photographic images as well as an attractive child-appealing narrator: a little lamb called Woolie Wythe, who tells the story.
This little volume that does double-duty, is a perfect vehicle for parents or grandparents to read to their little children, and to reinforce a gentle history lesson about how things were then. The actual photographs help by showing old-fashioned lawn mowers or sewing machines. It works nicely. There is even a glossary on the back, which is geared to both vocabulary and history. Educators will appreciate this, and it would be a welcome addition to primary school libraries.
It is affordable priced at under $15 and is available both through the EBW Birthplace or on amazon.com. The Edith Bolling Wilson Foundation has also produced a YouTube video, which is a delight to view. Group sales, via schools, libraries or corporations are available and encouraged, with all proceeds going to maintain the birthplace of the second Mrs. Wilson, a strong First Lady who needs to be remembered by history.
First Lady Edith Wilson and How the Sheep Helped Win the War
by Joyce Covey and Farron Smith, 2015
- ISBN-10: 0996455205