Operation Yes: Book Summary & Characters

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts has taught undergraduate-level film studies for over 9 years. She has a PhD in Media, Art and Text from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BA in film production from Marlboro College. She also has a certificate in teaching online from UMGC and non-profit marketing and fundraising from UC Davis.

This lesson will help middle school teachers introduce the novel ''Operation Yes'' to students. Its themes of war, family, community, and activism will resonate across diverse populations. We will learn about the plot, characters, and setting of Sara Lewis Holmes' 2011 novel.

Army Families

Operation Yes is a young adult novel by Sara Lewis Holmes. It tells the story of the sixth graders at Young Oaks elementary school on an army base in Reform, North Carolina. The book was published in 2009 and set during the Iraq war and the U.S. operations in Afghanistan at a time when it seemed like U.S. forces would never pull out of the Middle East.

Operation Yes follows sixth grader Bo and his cousin Gari, as they learn how to cope with the deployment of parents and family members, the fear felt for American troops abroad, and the power of hope which comes with community art.

Meet the Sixth Graders of Young Oaks

Bo Whaley isn't having an easy time at school. He's preoccupied with the thought that his dad, Colonel Whaley, will be deployed to Iraq.

Gari Whaley was happy living in Seattle. But when her mom, an army nurse, is deployed to Iraq, Gari is sent to North Carolina to stay with her aunt, uncle, and cousin. Her mom gives her a camera and tells her to email her lots of pictures in the hope that it will help Gari get situated.

In addition to Bo and Gari, the sixth-grade class includes ten others: Melissa, Martina, Rick, Trey, Sanjay, Kylie, Aimee, Zac, Dillon, and Allison. With Bo and Gari, it makes 12.

The sixth graders are met with a surprise on their first day of school. They've got a new teacher, and she's not at all what they expected. They're expecting to learn about math, science, reading, and history. But instead, they show up to find art lessons scribbled on the chalk board and an area taped out on the floor in the shape of a square.

Say Yes, And…

Their new teacher, Miss Loupe, isn't exactly traditional. She introduces the class to improvisational theater in order to encourage them to use their imaginations.

Inside the Taped Square (a theatrical space, a temporary stage), anything is possible. Miss Loupe demonstrates this fact by miming the action of playing golf. The students are immediately transported to a putting green. The first rule of improvisational theater is to say 'yes, and…' Accept the reality of the space and the story that you and your partners are creating. Doing so makes all things possible. The story starts off with three mottos:

  • Art needs a frame
  • Art is arranging objects to create beauty
  • Theater is the art of saying yes.

Miss Loupe enlists the help of her brother, Marc, deployed in Iraq with Army Special Forces. They email back and forth all the time, and she uses their correspondence to invite her students to play the game of 'Yes, and…'

The students get to know Marc, and he responds to their queries about story ideas and what happens next... Together, they create a story within the enchanted Taped Square.


At times, Miss Loupe regrets being the only member of her family who didn't pursue a career in the military. She doesn't fit in with the other, straight-laced, teachers: Miss Candy (the librarian), Mr. Nix (first-grade teacher), and Mrs. Heard (the principal).

But one day, Principal Heard pulls Miss Loupe from the class. The students eavesdrop as she receives the crushing news: Marc is MIA. This news hits the students almost as hard. Dark thoughts pass through their minds, as they wonder when they might hear that combination of, Army and, missing, and presumed dead: 'It will feel like this. When it happens to me, it will feel like this.'

Special forces in Iraq

Operation Yes

Miss Loupe doesn't return to school on Monday, and the sixth graders get a substitute teacher.

That's when Bo and Gari know that if they don't do something, Miss Loupe might never come back. Inspired by improvisational theater, the class bands together on a mission to raise awareness for wounded soldiers and soldiers missing in action (MIA).

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