Two new picture books portray children whose parents are away in the military. Both pay close attention to how the children feel and how they cope with a long separation, and both speak from the children's perspective and in language a child might use.
Eileen Spinelli's While You Are Away reads like a prose poem in three parts. Three children of different ethnicities narrate their own sections: a little boy whose father is in the Navy, a girl whose mother pilots a "fast plane," and another boy whose Papa drives a "speedy jeep." The children address their parents with their concerns, their questions, and their hopes. Their thoughts are simply expressed and often concrete: one child wonders what his father eats for breakfast, another wraps herself in her mother's sweater. Warm, glowing colors light up the large-scale, softly defined drawings of children in action and reflection. The final, wordless spread shows all three families happily reunited.
In Mindy Pelton's When Dad's at Sea, Emily's father, a Navy pilot, is leaving for a six-month deployment on an aircraft carrier. Each day he is gone, she removes one link from the paper chain he made for her, so that she can mark the days until his return. She misses him, but finds comfort in his e-mails and calls, and she even makes a new friend. The time frame of the story and the use of sensory details create a strong sense of Emily's loss, her slow adjustment, and her joy at her father's return. Steele's impressionistic, delicately colored watercolor paintings sensitively depict Emily and her surroundings.
Since so many communities include families with parents in the military, these reassuring, empathetic picture books will be welcome additions to library collections. Carolyn Phelan
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