Muddled intent and sloppy sentiment turn this soldier’s daughter’s vigil into a gooey slog.
Having parted from her uniformed father at a school send-off ceremony, young Ashley keeps him in her thoughts with a daily ritual: She throws a kiss to the flag following a private pledge—“I love you always, near or far. / We’ll do our parts / and keep strong hearts. / I throw a kiss to where you are.” She also makes silly flashcards (one features a head and a paper bag labeled “Bag-Dad”) and drawings to send as the seasons go by. Then one day in class, her eyes filled with “missing-Daddy tears,” she throws the kiss—and her father is there to “catch” it, setting off a joyful surprise reunion as her classmates cheer in the background. Cast in a thick golden haze, Rath’s illustrations offer frequent views of a waving American flag behind vaguely delineated figures with clumsily drawn facial features. With no discernable justification aside from general boosterism, a tribute written for older readers to the work of the USO and particularly one of its posts in Illinois has been tacked on after Ashley’s narrative.
A superficial jumble next to Suzanne Collins and James Proimos’ Year of the Jungle (2013), Jill Biden and Raúl Colón’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops (2012) and the many other more acute takes on this essential theme. (Picture book. 7-10)