The setting is World War II, and Ada Ruth’s mother heads north to Chicago, where colored women have an opportunity to work as all of the men are at war. Ada Ruth stays behind with her Grandma, waiting anxiously for letters from Mama and thinking about when she will see her again. Ada Ruth takes care of a stray kitten, mothering the kitten and becoming attached – though her Grandma warns against it. She listens to the radio at night with her Grandma. Her mother’s words “Just imagine, Ada Ruth. A colored woman working on the railroad!” bring tears of sadness and also wonder, thinking about the colored women working on the trains. Something that seemed impossible. Finally, she and Grandma receive the letter with money and the words I’ll be coming on home soon. It is the moment Ada Ruth has been waiting for amid the worry of missing her mother. The story ends with:
Outside, snow falls and falls
and somewhere there’s my mama
loving me more than rain.
Loving me more than snow.
And coming on home soon.
E.B. Lewis created moving watercolors that portray the life of Ada Ruth and Grandma with exquisite beauty and careful attention to detail. (E.B. Lewis also illustrated The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson) Coming On Home Soon was awarded a Caldecott Honor Award in 2005.
Not only do I love the illustrations, the language also moves the reader to understand with empathy the point of view of young Ada Ruth. Ada misses her mother and is also in awe of her mother, working in Chicago on the trains. This was an unthinkable position before the war and the mixture of sadness and awe adds to the depth of the story.
An interesting and thought-provoking point of view through the eyes of a young girl, this story of longing, hope and love is one you will want to add to your shelves.