Monday, November 10, 2014

Coming Home | A Guest Post by Greg Ruth


When Jean Feiwel and Liz Szabla first approached me to write and illustrate a picture book about a reunion between a child and his soldier-parent, my first reaction was of course utter excitement followed by an immediate desire to take it on. I had done a few children’s picture books with Feiwel & Friends already and we had a strong relationship and a great system for working as a team, so it really came down to the content and approach to the book itself.
Illustration credit: Greg Ruth, from Coming Home
I am not a veteran myself, but my work as an author and illustrator has taken me on many journeys to places outside of my own life experiences.  I know many vets both young and old, and my grandfather served in World War II. I also happen to live in an area populated by so many veterans. Even so, telling a story so intimate and true to the experience of being part of a family with a veteran in these times is a specific and unique thing to tackle, and I wanted to make absolutely certain we got it right. The act of reconnecting with a long absent family member is something we can all share. That was where we could work from. 

Illustration credit: Greg Ruth, from Coming Home
It is a remarkable thing for women and men to choose to separate from their families and put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of our country’s safety. That said, the totality of the experience of being a vet, of being a spouse of one, or even being the child of one is an experience I think only those in the midst of it can claim to truly understand. Most of us have been away from our families at one time or another and can relate to the anxiety that can come from the miles between us and them. Serving in combat or on a far away base must be like that --times a thousand.  The waiting and hoping, the long distance calls, Skypes, and emails would serve as much as a glue to bind these separated families together as a reminder of that long and terrible distance. But I think we can and must relate to this experience because the families that serve are in service to the rest of us. We are honor bound to try and understand the full measure of that sacrifice and duty, what it means to those who serve, and why that matters to us. 

Illustration credit: Greg Ruth, from Coming Home
We’ve all had that moment as children when we lose hold of our parents at a mall or in a big store and scramble through panic to find them again. The seconds feel like hours, and that moment of reunification is entirely pure in contrast to the brief fright of being lost. My personal goal with Coming Home was to use this common experience as a gateway to come to a better understanding of what it means to bring together all the complex emotions that service brings, and the reward and relief of a safe return home.


Illustration credit: Greg Ruth, from Coming Home

The politics of war and service are purposefully stripped away in Coming Home so that we can put a familiar human face upon the experience as felt by our children. Every day moms and dads, brothers and sisters are called up to stand in the way of harm. I have tried to stitch together in this short book the experiences of  those of us who do make the choice to join, and we the civilians for whom they join to defend.
Photo by Jen Smith
  • Greg Ruth is the illustrator of many graphic novels and books for children, including A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade and A Pirate’s Guide to Recess by James Preller, and is also the author/illustrator of The Lost Boy, a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Ashfield, Massachusetts, with his family. You can visit him online at gregthings.com.


I am giving away one copy of Coming Home

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 11/10 to 11:59 p.m. on 11/11. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 




Borrow Coming Home from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

3 comments:

  1. That is a really beautiful cover! And sounds like a lovely story as well.

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  2. Looks like some powerful illustrations. I love the cover!

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  3. I saw this posted by Kelly Light on Facebook and had to come check out Greg's gorgeous illustrations myself. Thank you for the giveaway!

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