This illustrated book written by and for middle schoolers shows how a disorder affects a soldier and his daughter.
Jewel Koagillo’s father has just returned from serving in the military overseas. His experience has left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, giving him “vivid, violent flashbacks and frightening nightmares.” He doesn’t seem like himself; “the screams, the pain, and the horrible things he says bring the war right into our very own house,” Jewel says. Starting a new school (her fourth), she experiences the ordinary first-day jitters, but also worries about her father. She meets a friendly girl, Brittany, who arranges to come over after school, but Jewel’s worst fears are realized when Brittany is greeted at the door by a hyped-up Mr. Koagillo, who screams at her to go away. Of course, Brittany tells everyone, and Jewel is teased mercilessly. But on Veterans Day, Mr. Koagillo speaks at a school assembly to explain the disorder—and unexpectedly demonstrates it when a loud noise causes him to reexperience the war. Jewel’s compassionate response and Brittany’s revelation that her father also suffers from the disorder bring cheers and claps, and the principal, who has a Purple Heart, underscores the message that unseen injuries hurt as much as visible ones. Conceived as a class exercise by photographer Ryan, this debut book was written by three sixth-graders under his supervision. The authors convey Jewel’s point of view well, capturing her tween self-consciousness and the scariness of a father who can’t always control himself. When she tells him that “I would rather have you this way than not at all,” the message is both loving and stark, a realistic nod to the losses faced by military families. But rather than citing any societal or governmental responsibility for taking care of veterans, the book only focuses on what children should do—“send cards to the VA hospital, raise money for research or medications.”
A relatable, if limited, story about a veteran that centers on how children can help adults.