The following is an interview with M.L. Sather, the author of Boo Boo Bear’s Mission. More information about Boo Boo Bear and his experiences can be found on Facebook. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What, if any, experiences do you and/or your book’s illustrator have with the military?
My son served 34 years with the Minnesota Air National Guard 148th Fighter Wing, including three tours in Iraq. My husband served in the Middle East during the Korean Conflict and my dad was in the Merchant Marines during WWII.
The book’s illustrators were children from military and civilian families. We wanted to offer an opportunity for all children to participate in a fun and empowering project. We wanted to give military-connected children a voice in defining their experiences. We also wanted children from civilian families to become aware of the pride and challenges their military-connected peers experience during deployments. Finally, we wanted to support children learning from one another.
What made you decide to write this book? Was there some incident or experience with the military that inspired you?
I was working on another children’s book when my son called from Iraq during his second deployment to tell me that his daughter had sent her beloved teddy bear to him to keep him company until he could return home to his family. Her sweet act of love for her dad touched me deeply. I knew I had to tell the story, so I set aside the other book and “Boo Boo Bear’s Mission” was born.
What message(s) do you hope that children and families receive as a result of reading your book?
First, my hope is that children and their families would enjoy, and identify with the story. I want readers to realize that learning how to name and express feelings, keeping family connections strong and practicing healthy coping strategies will help them meet the challenges of deployment—as well as the challenges in general that all families face. Finally, I hope that readers will recognize the power of love to hold families together.
Have you received any feedback from military families after they read your book, and if so, what have they said?
One of my greatest joys in sharing Boo Boo Bear’s Mission is the wonderfully affirming feedback I get from those who hear the story. Everywhere I go to share Boo’s story, there are individuals who can relate to the story either because of their military connections or because they have experienced another kind of separation and understand the feelings that can arise from any separation. I am delighted that every group of children I work with can identify with the message of the book—that Boo Bear’s mission is to carry a family’s love until they can be together again.
Since much of the feedback I receive is in the form of notes from kids, I have included samples below and edited their spelling for clarity.
First Grader: “I really liked Boo Boo Bear. It was a good book because kids did the illustrations. The cover was good too. One thing that I loved was details.”
First Grader: “I really enjoyed this. If you ever need a volunteer for when you come again, I’d be it”
Fourth Grader: “That book is for all ages. It’s small enough [short enough] for little kids to read and it would make grownups happy.”
Child of deployed parent: “I’m going to send my bear to my mom.”
Library Media Specialist with military connections: “You’ve touched a lot of lives today.”
MN National Guard 148th FW Airman and Family Readiness Program Manager: “This is absolutely the best kids’ deployment book I’ve read. It identified and validates the emotions of so many children in Air National Guard families.”
Former First Lady of Minnesota and creator of the Military Family Initiative: “Your story is absolutely delightful. . . I am certain the tale will be endearing to many children. Your story also underscores many deeper, important messages. . . “
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?
Though the kids I meet often suggest ideas for sequels to Boo Boo Bear’s Mission, at this time I have no plans to write another book for military-connected children and their families.
Are there any other books for military children that you would suggest for young children?
Some of my favorites are:
- A Paper Hug by Stephanie Skolmoski
- Lily Hates Goodbyes by Jerilyn Marler
- My Father Is in the Navy by Robin McKinley
- My Red Balloon by Eve Bunting
- Night Catch by Brenda Ehrmantraut
- Pilot Mom by Kathleen Benner Duble
- Sometimes We Were Brave by Pat Brisson
- Stars Above Us by Geoffrey Norman
- The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (This one deals with separation that includes death, so may not be appropriate for all families)
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
- The Wishing Tree by Mary Redman
- When Dad’s At Sea by Mindy Pelton