Recently at ALA, I was reminded that sometimes the best things happen to you when you deviate from your plan. I was in the Exhibit Hall in Chicago, looking for some specific booths. I was walking past Egmont USA’s booth and it looked like they had an author signing going on. I glanced at the stack of books and read the cover. The title was “Back Home” and the cover read “Julia Keller–Winner of the Pulitzer Prize”. I thought to myself, that sounds like an adult title and I didn’t stop to get in line. But, as I was walking by, I overhead just a snatch of the conversation that the booth representative was having with one of the librarians in line.
That snatch of conversation made me actually pick up the book and read the back cover. I was hooked by the first sentence in the publisher’s blurb. “When Dad comes home from Iraq, Rachel doesn’t recognize the man with a prosthetic arm and leg, sitting in the living room day after day.” That one sentence caused me to take the book and get in line to have it signed because my high school library had over 1800 students last year and 50-75% of the students have one or both parents who were/are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan during the year.
I waited my turn and got to meet Julia Keller. We talked for several minutes after I told her why I was excited to see a novel written about this subject. We had a really good conversation and she even asked me to let her know what I thought about the book.
I had a little bit of time that evening with nothing scheduled (my roommates were all at the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet, lucky ducks) so I started reading Back Home. I didn’t stop reading until I was finished. I thought the book was excellent. The story deals with the changes in Rachel’s family, school, and friendships. The feelings expressed by Rachel were totally believable. The book moved me and informed me at the same time. As a reader, I learned about the technical/medical aspects of Rachel’s situation as Rachel learned so many of the new words that became a part of her family’s life after her father’s return.
Back Home will be available in September fromEgmont USA. I think everyone from upper elementary to adult would enjoy the book. I really think this book should be a part of everyone’s collection, especially if the library serves a military community or has a National Guard/Reserve component nearby.
Becky Jackman, School Librarian for Northeast High School in Clarksville, TN is also the Tennessee Association of School Librarians President-Elect. You can email Becky here.