Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson (Author) and E.B. White (Illustrator)

K-Gr. 3. As in their award-winning picture book The Other Side (2001), Woodson and Lewis tell a moving historical story of longing and separation. The setting here is the home front during World War II, and Ada Ruth's mama leaves to find work in the city ("They're hiring colored women in Chicago since all the men are off fighting in the war"). At home with Grandma, Ada Ruth holds on to memories of Mama's love and writes to her. Times are hard, and for a long time "no letter or money coming." Ada Ruth takes in a stray kitten, and even though Grandma says they can't keep it, Ada Ruth does, and its purring softness is big and warm on her lap. The race, class, and gender struggle is part of the larger drama ("A colored woman working on the railroad!"), but for Ada Ruth, it's the waiting, quietly expressed in her simple, poetic first-person narrative. Lewis' beautiful watercolors establish the setting, not the South this time, but a spacious rural landscape with snow and icy storms, and inside, the loving portrayals of the women in warm, neat rooms with an empty chair. Period and place are wonderfully specific; the yearning is timeless. Hazel Rochman Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Classroom Implications: This book stands out for its pairing of historical fiction with award-winning illustrations. Woodson writes a story within a story; upon reading, the reader notices the internal story of the characters that occurs simultaneously with the external story on the pages. For this reason, this would be an excellent text to use when teaching personal narrative or short story.

Click here to access a Booklist Interview with J. Woodson on her book Coming on Home Soon, African American women in her family, and her writing process.

Skills and Strategies

  • Summarizing
  • Setting
  • Dialogue

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