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The Picture Book Buzz

When Your Daddy's A Soldier - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF and Giveaway

There aren't a lot of books which show the experiences and emotions of military children and their families. Told through the child's viewpoint, this is an excellent book for military families enduring deployments or anyone dealing with long absences. It releases on October 18th.

When Your Daddy's A Soldier

Author: Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan

Illustrator: EG Keller

Publisher: Viking Books (2022)

Ages: 4-8



Military children, families, emotions, deployments, and separations.


A lyrical, moving story about a family's experience at home during their dad's time away at war.

For one young boy and his family at home, the days pass slowly. That's because when your daddy's a soldier and he's away at war, you can't wait for him to come home so you can be together again.

This poignant and impactful story, inspired by the author's lived experiences, captures the essence of the daily heartache, fear, joy, and uncertainty that a child whose parent has gone off to war must live with.

Opening Lines:

When your daddy's a soldier like

mine, you want to be a soldier, too.

You wear camo like he does. You wear dog

tags like he does. And you want to ride in a

tank or a helicopter just like he does, too.

What I LOVED about this book:

This fun opening not only introduces the young child playfully imitating his father, but the family's golden retriever E.G. Keller adds as a wonderful foil for the whole family's emotions. It's happiness radiates as it playfully romps with the child and then joins in the joyous welcome of dad at the end of day with a wildly wagging tail.

Text © Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan, 2022. Image © E.G. Keller, 2022.

But there is a downside when your daddy's a soldier, sometimes "he gets ordered to work far away, for a maybe-forever long time." That is such a wonderful encapsulation of a child's sense of time and how long months or a year can feel for them. Learning his father is being deployed, the boy tries to plug out the news with his fingers in his ears, Although he initially tries to be brave, maintaining his assumed "role" as a soldier, he ultimately retreats to his fort and cries. While one could wish he'd cried initially and perhaps the father hadn't laid the burden of being the "man of the house" on him, as Gretchen McLellan mentioned in our interview on Monday, this book is an amalgamation of many experiences and aims to accurately reflectthose realities. Perhaps it will give parents and other adults pause and food for thought.

The next two spreads swing the reader through extremes of emotion. The image of him and his father snuggled in the fort is touching. And the opposite scene is so heartbreaking - even the poor dog is forlorn.

Text © Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan, 2022. Image © E.G. Keller, 2022.

But after he's gone, I don't sit in his place at the table. His

chair is so empty my throat hurts. Sis still sets a place for

him. Mama doesn't eat. I tell her a joke to make her smile.

Then Sis does, too.

The reader experiences the toll that Dad's absence has on the family through Mama's swing of emotions and actions as well as the boy's admittance to sleeping with the light on, like he did when he was younger. Even the dog is mopping. However, sending letters, seashells, skipping stones, and cookies helps lessen their (and their dad's) loneliness. Even if Mama won't let them mail themselves to him. 😊 Little moments like this in the text and illustrations help keep the tone from feeling too oppressive.

Finally, a day comes "that's better than all your birthdays and holidays put together." This is such a powerful way for a child to express his joy over his dad coming home. Although he ultimately has to return to his unit and the war, joy, relief, and love radiate through these spreads of Dad's time back home. I appreciated Dad's comment that, "he's proud of the way we've taken care of one another...we should get a medal for keeping our family strong." Although Dad leaves again, the final spreads are very poignant, hopeful, and loving.

While the focus is upon this child's family and his father's deployment, EG Keller included female soldiers both in the dad's unit and in the school's Veterans celebration. It is a great book for a child and family anticipating or experiencing a deployment or other separation.


- create cards and send them to military men and women overseas - OPERATION MAIL CALL.

- send a care package with special memories and cookies to a distant family member, whether they are in the military or not.

If you missed the interview with Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

When Your Daddy's A Soldier Giveaway

Great news, Gretchen is offering one lucky reader a copy of When Your Daddy's A Soldier .

- Simply comment below or on Gretchen's interview post (or both) to be entered in the random drawing on October 21st.

- Be sure to say where (if) you shared the post (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and I'll add additional entries for you.

- *Sorry US Residents only.*


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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