Wombat Books, 2012
hbk., RRP $24.95
“Gemma watches her dad as he sits alone in his garden. Waiting. Day after day. Looking but not seeing. Shoulders hunched. Body slumped.” No matter what Gemma does – whirling like a ballerina, turning cartwheels, even playing a tune on her recorder – nothing seems to break through to that dark and lonely place that her dad inhabits these days. She even wonders if he loves her any more. Weeks pass and then one day…
I waited and waited to review this remarkable book by teacher librarian Sharon McGuinness – she who is behind the wonderful Mrs Mac’s Library http://www.mrsmacslibrary.com/ that is such a wonderful resource for all of us. Gemma’s dad suffers from depression and in Coming Home, Sharon has dared to tackle an issue that she knows much about, that many of our students experience within their families, and yet few bring into the open through contemporary realistic fiction that is aimed at the primary school child.
This sensitively illustrated picture book that starts in a dark place with just a few spots of colour of hope blossoms into a beautiful story that needs to be shared. Despite its focus, it is a story of hope and learning to enjoy what is, not worry about what might be. Gemma’s dad may relapse, but, for now, Gemma’s just glad to have him ‘home’. The words may seem simple, but they are carefully chosen and convey a powerful message. Perhaps it will be your lead-in to RUOK Day .
Mental health issues are very slowly losing the taboo that has surrounded them for centuries, and by writing Coming Home Sharon has given us a story that can help us open discussions with a group or be gently suggested to a particular student because the teacher librarian knows both students and the collection. This is a story written with such delicacy that you know it has been written by one who has lived the life and knows how to reach out to children.
Sharon has developed a book trailer which is available on Mrs Mac’s Books next week, and teachers’ notes are available. She is also donating all royalties to the Black Dog Institute to help fund education programs and further research.
Even if you only have $25.00 left in your budget for this year, spend it on this book. Congratulations, and thank you, Sharon.
Advice, support and treatment for depression is available from
Headspace (Australia’s national youth mental health foundation)