PPBF: The Poppy Lady

Poppy Lady

With fall upon us, it’s time to hit the books again — the Perfect Picture Books, that is.


AUTHOR: Barbara Walsh

ILLUSTRATOR: Layne Johnson

PUBLICATION INFO: Calkins Creek, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59078-754-0

SOURCE: library


GENRE: nonfiction picture book biography


“Moina Belle Michael looked forward to summer vacation when she returned home from her third year of boarding school in 1885.”

From the publisher:

“When American soldiers entered World War I, Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia, knew she had to act. Some of the soldiers were her students and friends. Almost single-handedly, Moina worked to establish the red poppy as the symbol to honor and remember soldiers. And she devoted the rest of her life to making sure the symbol would last forever. Thanks to her hard work, that symbol remains strong today. Author Barbara Elizabeth Walsh and artist Layne Johnson worked with experts, primary documents, and Moina’s great-nieces to better understand Moina’s determination to honor the war veterans.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, biography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I’ve used this book as a mentor text to help me shape a “slice of life” picture book biography I’m writing. Walsh’s use of a prologue to give readers a glimpse into Moina Belle’s girlhood is an effective technique for this type of biography. Walsh uses rhetorical questions and a repetitive phrase drives the pacing and page turns. Finally, Walsh has let Moina Belle’s voice shine through by incorporating her quotes throughout the main text. But this book isn’t just a must-read for writers. My seven-year-old snatched it out of the book return pile. He gives it two thumbs up too!

As a bonus part of the book’s proceeds go to the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple®, to help children of the U.S. military.


  • A teacher’s guide is available through Walsh’s Web site.
  • BBC One has a children’s World War I Web site with age-appropriate materials.
  • Veterans’ Day is Nov. 11th. Why not find a way to honor a veteran or active service member. Children can write letters to soldiers and send them through A Million Thanks or send packages through Any Soldier.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

30 thoughts on “PPBF: The Poppy Lady”

  1. How interesting to learn where the poppy emblem came from. So was that before the symbolism of graveyard poppy fields in Belgium?

  2. I thought the tradition came from Europe! They celebrate and sell the poppies (usually made of paper) in the town squares. I will have to check this book out. 🙂

  3. I saw this story reviewed recently and I even believe I saw something about the Poppy Lady on television. This is a captivating story about how one person has made a difference. The illustrations are beautiful!

  4. So glad you share the love for this book Kirsten. I reviewed it as a PPBF around Memorial Day as well. Barbara’s done a wonderful job telling the story.

      1. I don’t see it either Kirsten – no worries! It must be a task and a half for Susanna to keep all the PPBF recommendations updated. 🙂

  5. I’m searching at this very minute to find a copy of this heartwarming true story. Thanks for featuring it, Kirsten…it will help me as I study non fiction picture books in hopes that one day, I’ll have one of my own out there. 😉

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