The following is an interview with Sally Huss, author of numerous children’s books including My Mother’s Pearls, My Mother’s Wings, and My Father’s Shirt, all of which deal specifically with military separation. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What, if any, experiences do you have with the military?
My husband was a Marine pilot and his son, my stepson, was a Navy pilot. Both were pilots on aircraft carriers.
What made you decide to write this book? Was there some incident or experience with the military that inspired you?
I live in the San Diego area and work with the Head Start programs. In speaking with the Education Coordinators in charge of each of the Head Start programs, I asked if there were any subjects that I might write about to help the children in their classes. Two subjects came up – biting, and the loneliness created by military separation. The following four books are the result of my understanding these needs: MY MOTHER’S PEARLS, MY FATHER’S SHIRT, MY MOTHER’S WINGS, and GOOD BITING, BAD BITING.
Currently, I am also working with a funder to donate sets of books from the Sally Huss collection for each of the Head Start classes in the San Diego area. This will be the first test of these books within that program.
Also, a large percentage of the children in these classes are Hispanic, therefore in all of my books I have human characters in them, who are multicultural, so that children of color can relate to the stories.
What message(s) do you hope that children and families receive as a result of reading your book?
All of my books have an underlying positive message. Many impart suggestions for solutions to difficult situations by promoting a positive attitude toward those circumstances. WHAT’S PETE’S SECRET? Is a good example of this. No matter what befalls this little fellow with his glasses, red hair, freckles, and big ears, he comes up smiling. His mantra is: “I’m as perfect as I can be. Nothing can upset me, no, no, not me.”
Most of my books are written to help children develop critical social and emotional skills that they can with carry them through life to be successful – skills such as sharing, working together, being helpful, appreciating oneself and others, respecting those in charge, etc. The books also offer a starting point for parents, teachers, and helpers of all kinds to talk to a child about a subject, even a difficult one.
Have you received any feedback from military families after they read your book, and if so, what have they said?
These books are fairly new, yet I have had great response to them. Just having a story that a child can identify with helps a great deal.
Do you have plans to write another book that focuses on the military? If so, what is the focus of that book and when might we expect to see it?
After going to your blog page, it struck me that children could use some help, through books, with handling the return of an injured military parent. My job is to lift sadness in children, not by putting a happy face on these circumstances, but by creating an understanding of the situation for the child and how best to deal with it. This can be helped through stories, I believe. I should have a book or two on this subject within the next few months.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak about my books. I hope military parents find them helpful and military children find them comforting.
The OneOp team has put together guided discussion handouts for My Father’s Shirt and My Mother’s Wings, which providers can use with young children and their families. You can access the handout for My Father’s Shirt here and My Mother’s Wings here.