Rather than building up to some sort of dramatic review climax, I’m just going to come straight out and say it. I think Sara Lewis Holmes has written a beautiful book in Operation YES and I’m thinking lots of other people are going to believe the same thing when it is released this September. What this book says about courage, creativity, family ties, war and education is complex and thought-provoking. Sara’s prose is perfection and the way she brings to life the day-to-day drama and challenges of an elementary school on a military base is compelling and heartwarming. I loved every single page, and I’m already rereading it, something I hardly ever do.
Bo Whaley is Colonel Whaley’s son, the head honcho on the military base. This year, he’s promised his dad that he’ll do better at school. He won’t get into trouble the way he usually does. Gari is Bo’s cousin. When her mom is called for a tour of duty as a nurse in Iraq, Gari gets sent off to live with Bo on the base. She isn’t exactly thrilled about it. In fact, almost immediately, she starts developing a plan to get back to Seattle and to bring her mom home. Both of the kids are in Miss Loupe’s class, Room 208, Young Oaks Elementary School. Miss Loupe is no ordinary teacher. First, she has a tatoo and a lot more earrings than most sixth grade teachers. Second, she is crazy. At least, that’s what the students think when on the first day of school, she creates a giant rectangle on the floor of the classroom using masking tape and introduces the class to “The Taped Space,” otherwise known as the Theatrical Space or the Temporary Stage. She tells them that “Art is arranging objects to create beauty” and “Theater is the art of saying yes,” and from that moment, school is forever different. Miss Loupe teaches the kids all the stuff they are supposed to learn, but she also teaches them the wonder of improv, and how to say yes – to drama, to causes that matter, to life. Events unfold that inspire the students to work together to face challenges and create change through an ambitious plan that unites art and activism. You will cheer. You will shout YES! I don’t think it’s overly-dramatic to say that you will look at the people around you a little bit differently, because, as the characters in Operation YES come to understand, you will remember that “Everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
I hope this book gets a whole lot of hoopla. I hope it inspires teachers to be a little bit more like Miss Loupe, and bring what they care about into the classroom because the kids will care too. I am sure it will make people think about how it takes courage and integrity to fight for what you believe in, whether you are serving your country or serving your community or family or students. Stay tuned at Sara’s blog, Read, Write, Believe for news about her new blog that will be launched in celebration of Operation YES. Can’t wait.