By Maureen Tai, 9 December 2018
“I missed you so much.”
With just 18 words and a restrained colour palette of burnt ochre, green and brown, this realistically illustrated picture book about an American solder’s homecoming packs a hefty emotional punch.
A young boy with tousled straw-coloured hair, bright orange t-shirt and Converse sneakers waits at the airport. He is peering out from among the crowd, craning his neck to get a glimpse of the arriving planes. The aircraft carry members of the US armed forces, soldiers who daily risk their lives to protect the lives of others. The boy is calm, but then explodes in excitement as the crowd is allowed onto the tarmac to greet their loved ones. Racing ahead, a border collie is reunited with its beaming owner, and as they hug, their joy is palpable. The boy walks among the crowds of reunited families. There is a couple locked in an embrace, a father posing for a photograph flanked by a euphoric group of family members, an expectant mother showing off her belly bump to her soldier husband.
But the boy wanders on alone, looking, seeking. His mounting anxiety is evident from his face. His lips are set in a straight line, his eyes are questioning. Will he find who he looking for?
Coming Home focusses on that exultant moment of happiness and relief at the end of several unspoken stories: the preceding months of separation, loneliness and anxiety that family members left behind must live through, and the preceding months of active duty that the soldiers must hope to survive. I challenge you to read this without getting a lump in your throat.
For ages 8 and up.