As promised, we shall be devoting this week to celebrating Black History Month along with the international community. Since the theme is about Black Women in American Culture and History, I tried looking for picture books with female African American protagonists. I am glad to have found several – and when I saw this award-winning-book by Jacqueline Woodson entitled Coming On Home Soon, I knew it was perfect for Book Talk Tuesday (hosted by Kelly Butcher from The Lemme Library) and the other reading challenges that we have joined this year.
In Celebration of the Unseen (oft-ignored) Heroes in our Young Lives. Ada Ruth’s mother is about to leave the comforts of their quiet home. It is war time and women are expected to step up and fill the void that the able-bodied men have left behind. Whereas previously, women are not deemed to be suitable for various roles and tasks, it is now their civic duty to be who society requires them to be given the circumstances.
Mama’s hands are warm and soft. When she put her Sunday dress into the satchel, I held my breath. Tried hard not to cry. Ada Ruth, she said. They’re hiring colored women in Chicago since all the men are off fighting in the war. Mama folded another dress and put it in the bag. I’m gonna head on up there.
Most of the stories about war speak of men fighting the battles in the homefront, defending the country with their youthful idealism fired up with righteous guns and well-meaning bombs. This picture book presents a different facet of a home quietly devastated by the wounds that a raging war creates – the forced separation of loved ones who are journeying outside the comforts of their home to seek out better opportunities, to be the unseen hero that the country needs at that point in time.
All three women in this picture book are heroes in their own rights: Mama for her heading towards the unknown to help a country in need; Ada Ruth for being a brave little girl, containing her hiccups, and taking comfort in a love that is more than anything in this world “More than rain. More than snow”; and not to forget Grandma – who now waits alongside Ada Ruth for letters that never seem to arrive and Mama’s footsteps in the snow as she comes on home.
The Women in our Lives: Our Source of Comfort and Warmth. What I also loved about this book is the overflowing love that can be felt within the pages, the lyrical text of Woodson matched perfectly by Lewis’ drawings of closed-eyes-snuggles, hands that breathe courage, and intertwined bodies that radiate bursts of moonshine. Here are a few photos that I took from the book that demonstrate this perfectly:
This book is a reminder that wars are not only fought in the field and that courage is measured not only through how many died under one’s command. It is also gauged by how many hearts have been filled with warm embraces that spread out to the moon and back; the number of souls soothed and silenced during times of unrest, uncertainty, and despair; and the steadfast and resolute knowledge of a loved one’s return – spoken like a prayer, a chant, a meditative song:
Inside, it’s warm and quiet. Stew cooking on the stove. Outside, snow falls and falls and somewhere there’s my mama loving me more than rain. Loving me more than snow. Cleaning trains. And coming on home soon.
About the Author and Illustrator (source: jacketflap of the book).
Jacqueline Woodson‘s picture books and novels have won her legions of fans and a long list of awards, including two National Book Award Finalists, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a Coretta Scott King Medal. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
E. B. Lewis is the celebrated illustrator of many books for children, and has received a Coretta Scott King Award as well as a Coretta Scott King Honor for his work. He lives in Folsom, New Jersey.
Coming On Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson and Illustrated by E. B. Lewis. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2004. Book borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos were taken by me.
Coming On Home Soon is a Caldecott Honor Book. AWB Reading Challenge Update: 13 of 35
PictureBook Challenge Update: 24 of 120
Caldecott Challenge Update: 2 of 24
PoC Reading Challenge: 2 of 25
Another beautiful choice Myra. Love Jacqueline Woodson. Never thought to compare the separation to a deployment or war. Interesting perspective that feels relevant. I just happen to be reviewing one of her books on Friday, “The Other Side.” It’s about a fence built in a community that separates black and white families.
Hi Pat, I will definitely visit your post on Friday. I don’t think I’ve seen The Other Side yet – another book to be borrowed from our lovely libraries here.
I would guess we could each write a book about those ‘women in our lives’. This would make such a great mentor teach for writing about family challenges. I loved the words you used to weave between the pages of this wonderful book. Woodson does do beautiful books doesn’t she? Thanks for telling about this one!
Hi Linda, that would be a formidable book project – writing about the women in our lives. You just gave me the seeds of a wondrous idea I’d probably get to pursue in ten years’ time. 🙂 This is my first Woodson book, I shall definitely come back for more. 🙂
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