Review Blog

Sep 10 2012

Coming home by Sharon McGuinness

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Ill. Shannon Melville. Wombat Books, 2012. hbk., RRP $24.95. ISBN 978-1-921633-77-5.
'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 have been WAITING to review this remarkable book by our very own Sharon McGuinness - she who is behind the wonderful Mrs Mac's Library 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 on September 13.
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 is developing a book trailer which will be available on her new site Mrs Mac's Books and teachers' notes are available.
She is also donating all royalties to the Black Dog Institute to help fund education programs and further research. Coming Home's message and quality is being heard in the author community - it will be launched at the State Library in Perth on October 16 by Meg McKinlay (No Bears) at a function also attended by Norman Jorgensen, Sally Murphy, and Susanne Gervay. Acknowledgement and accolades indeed for a new author! 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:
Black Dog Institute , Beyond Blue  ,  Headspace (Australia's national youth mental health foundation), RUOK?& and Lifeline .
Barbara Braxton

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