The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans (PPBF)


The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans
Written by: Barbara Elizabeth Walsh
Illustrated by: Layne Johnson
Calkins Creek Books, 2012

Suitable For Ages: 5-9

Themes/Topics: Memorial Day, veterans, poppies, Flanders Fields

Opening: “March 1917. German U-boats had sunk another American ship – and the nation was outraged! Would the president call for war? Would Congress agree? Moina Belle Michael prayed not…”

Watch the Book Trailer

Brief Synopsis: An earnest tribute to the dedication of Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia who was inspired by a poem to launch a national campaign establishing the red poppy as the symbol of sacrifice and courage of America’s soldiers.

While searching through her father’s WWII memorabilia, ten year old Barbara Elizabeth Walsh found a postcard addressed to her mother with a red poppy pinned to one corner. Her father explained who “The Poppy Lady” was and how kind she had been to him and his soldier buddies during the war. Decades later, Barbara was inspired to research Moira’s story and write this beautiful, moving book for children. Layne Johnson’s light-bathed illustrations are soft and luminous.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Links To Resources:

Make red paper poppies

Read the poem In Flanders Fields

Monday, May 26, 2014 is Memorial Day in the United States.
Participate in a parade, visit a cemetery, and thank a veteran.

Why I Like This Book:

It’s an multi-award nominee!
Bank Street College of Education for Best Books (2013), TriState Young Adult Book Review Committee for Books of Note (2013), Eureka! Silver Award (California Reading Association (2013).

A portion of the book’s proceeds will support the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple®, which benefits children of the U.S. military.

As a child, I loved buying and wearing red poppies on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. It was as much a part of our family tradition as attending the town parade and planting geraniums at the cemetery. Sadly, it has become far less common to find poppies being sold, and I have often resorted to asking local friends on Facebook to let me know where I can buy them! I am grateful for Barbara’s lovely book telling Moina’s story and ensuring that the red poppy tribute will endure.

For a complete list of great books with resources, please visit Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books. Happy Memorial Day!


About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at or Twitter @catballoumealey
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49 Responses to The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans (PPBF)

  1. I enjoyed the Highlights article about Moina awhile back, so I’m sure this will be even more fascinating. This is a great Memorial Day pick. I have a soft spot for In Flanders Fields. It was one of the poems I had to illustrate as an intern. Whoo. Ancient history 🙂

  2. rnewman504 says:

    Cathy, I had never heard of this tradition. What a lovely tribute. I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Happy Memorial Day! p.s. Poppies and anemones are my favorite flowers. 🙂

  3. You nailed it. This is a fantastic book, Cathy.

  4. jama says:

    Lovely review! I was always fascinated by the poppies when I was little too, and memorized the poem. The illustrations look wonderful.

  5. Joanne Sher says:

    Lovely review of what sounds like a lovely book. Will definitely have to look this one up. Thanks!

  6. A must-share for this Memorial Day weekend. I’m partial to Poppy Day having lived in the UK. Wish we did it here.

  7. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this book. I had no idea where the poppies came from. I was familiar with Landers Field. This is a must-buy book. The story is inspiring and the illustrations beautiful and emotional. Wow, that book trailer brought tears to my eyes. Perfect choice today.

  8. Sue Wang says:

    Great book and choice, Cathy! Oh wow -I didn’t know this at all about the red poppies. I love love love poppies and am glad that it was picked to symbolize sacrifice and bravery. I see the Brits wear the poppy pins and wondered what that is. I think it’s the same sentiment? When you wear the poppy pin this weekend, please do share a pic here or FB! Happy Memorial Day and wishing for peace. ♥

  9. What a lovely, inspiring story! thanks for sharing! There is a town in Texas, Georgetown, close to our state capital, Austin, that is famous for it’s red poppies. They have a big festival every year in April. You should come on down sometime!

  10. LovableLobo says:

    I’d forgotten all about the poppies. I love the sound of this book! How fitting for Memorial Day. Great review and thanks for sharing, Cathy!

  11. What a terrific find as Memorial Day approaches! Heading over to put this on hold before someone else spots it!

  12. Wendy says:

    Like others who commented, living in the UK there was quite an emphasis on poppy sales (paper ones usually) for Veterans Day but I didn’t realize there was any connection to the United States. I shall have to read.

  13. Joanna says:

    I knew nothing about this tradition and Mona. Thanks so much for this lovely recommendation. Great choice for this weekend.

  14. What a perfect choice for this PPBF. I love this book. The story is beautifully written and the illustrations are absolutely enchanting.

  15. tinamcho says:

    That is a neat book! I’m going to put it on my wish list. Thanks for sharing, Cathy!

  16. What a perfect book for this week’s PPBF, Cathy! It sounds very special. I’m embarrassed to say that I did not even know about the poppies – where have I been?! So I’ve learned something important and shall have to read this book ASAP!

    • I know you’ll enjoy it Susanna. After reading over the comments, I’m wondering if there are regional differences in the poppy tradition being followed? But it is a lovely one to spread. Happy Memorial Day!

  17. Sue Heavenrich says:

    this is a wonderful story; I’ve always loved the poppies.

  18. Definitely new to me being over here in Singapore. Good to know now!

  19. Reblogged this on bildebok from Cathy Ballou Mealey and commented:

    Updating a classic from the archives. Memorial Day 2016 will be observed on Monday, May 30th. This book is a wonderful resource for young readers who are curious about the history of the red poppy tradition. With gratitude for all those who have served, and their families…

  20. Such a perfect choice for Memorial Day! I came across this book last month at my library. I had no idea of the story behind the red poppies I tie to my purse strap and have been enjoying since I can remember. After reading your wonderful review, I feel like enjoying the book again. Thank you.

    • I remember my great uncle selling poppies and proudly wearing his Army cap – the only piece of his uniform that still fit! I like to wind their stems around the rearview mirror of our car. Glad you love the book too!

  21. books4learning says:

    I vaguely remember poppies when I was young. I had no idea about this tradition. I would love to read this story. Planning to check this book out.

  22. Thanks for introducing me to The Poppy Lady! I didn’t know the story of Moina Belle Michael, or how the poppy became a symbol to honor veterans. Wonderful book!

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