Coming On Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson
Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson
Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3 (suggested, but a great picture book well into 5th grade)
Paperback: 32 pages
Ada Ruth struggles with the sadness brought on by her mother’s departure to Chicago where jobs are rumored to be available for black women. Times are doubly hard for these three generations—Ada Ruth, her mother and grandmother—struggling to subsist under one roof during World War II. Ada Ruth finds a semblance of comfort in her grandmother’s arms and a stray black kitten that grandma grudgingly agrees to let stay.
Woodson uses dialogue masterfully to convey the feelings and emotions of the characters. By the second page, the reader already has a clear sense of the strong bond between mother and daughter as well as the pain the separation will bring. Woodson uses italics to demonstrate dialogue instead of quotation marks. The italics provide extra emphasis that quotation marks lack and a sense that the words are more poetry than dialogue. Woodson’s use of vocabulary, e.g., clabber milk, lye soap, brings an authenticity to the story that makes it believable. The narrative has a certain timeless quality. I imagine readers relating to this sort of story across different time periods and ethnicities. The illustrations balance the story perfectly. The watercolors bring softness, while the choice of dark color and shadows convey the scarcity of resources. The art shows both barrenness and abundance. The illustrator pays close attention to detail, taking care that every part of the house is true to the 1940s. The author and illustrator have created a work with the elements of high quality literature. As the reader, I am drawn into the story, eager to see if Ada Ruth and her mother will be reunited. Even though the grandmother is in the role of nurturer and comforter, I get the sense that she is suffering too. Her efforts to comfort Ada Ruth bring solace to her as well. This mirrors the way Ada Ruth’s caretaking of the kitten helps her cope with the separation. These two parallel story elements brings insightful depth to the story. Students with parents or relatives who live far from home due to war, divorce, etc., could relate to this story. Teachers could use this work as a literature integration with a social studies lesson on World War II.