Saturday, July 7, 2012

Postcards from a War by Vanita Oelschlager

Not long ago, my sister send me an old family album for safekeeping (she lives in a place that is prone to tornadoes.)  Looking through it, I came across a bunch of postcards that had been sent to us when we were kids.  Most were from my dad, who travelled a lot.  Two were from my mom when she was in hospital having my brother.  There were a few from my older sister when she was away, but lots from my grandmother who lived in California and to whom I was very attached.  And there were even a few from me, sent from camp or the few trips I took in school.  My mother saved each one and looking at them, I remembered how much they meant to us when we received them.  Those postcards represented a connection we had to each other that was still intact.

Remembering that sense of connection is what Vanita Oelschlager explores in her picture book Postcards from a War.  Published in 2009, when the United States was still a war on two fronts, Iraq and Afghanistan, it is the story of Matthew Brian Jackson, 6, whose mother is in the Air Force and has been deployed overseas to an un-named country where there is an on-going war.  Matthew's father works downtown and so, after school, he stays with his grandfather.

When he tells his grandfather that he is sad about his mom being away and afraid she might not come home, he told Matthew about when his own father went to war during World War II.  Taking Matthew up to the attic, he began to show him the postcards and letters sent home to him and his two sisters, to let them know all was well with him and to make the waiting for his return home easier.  As a result, over the course of the war, the family felt connected with their dad, no matter where he was.

This is a simply told story with a lot of impact, perfect for today's children whose mom or dad has also been deployed.  Because it is the grandfather telling his grandson about his own experience, the story is rich in detail about what life was like growing up during the war.  But also it address the one thing both wars have in common - the impact war can have on a home front child, exploring the fears they most likely have and suggesting ways to deal with it.  That is what makes this such a good from for kids.

Vanita Oelschlager has written lots of children's books, but Postcards from a War is somewhat autobiographical, reflecting her understanding what is feels like to have a parent in the military put in danger when they are deployed.  The postcards and letters were sent to her family during World War II.
The illustrations in Postcards from a War were done by Mike Blanc using digital painting software.  The World War II illustrations are done in a sepia tone giving them a aged look while the full color illustrations are done in color to represent the present.  As you can see, they are perfectly matched to the story, enhancing it without overwhelming it.

Page 4
Page 10
Page 18

This book is recommended for readers age 6-9
The book was received as an E-ARC from

Kid Konnection is a weekly meme hosted by Booking Mama


  1. My dad was the one who saved postcards in my family. I need to ask my mom if she still has them.

    I love the sound of this book! The illustrations are gorgeous too!

  2. This looks terrific. I still have some postcards sent during WWII, & then later during Korea I think. It's an awful time to think that your loved one is far away in danger. I think this would be great for the students today who are facing this. Thanks!

  3. I am intrigued. Think this will be going into the next issue of TALKING STORY.

  4. I love receiving postcards from far away places and enjoying adding them to my ‘collection’.
    This sounds like a really interesting read.

  5. I liked your blog and I posted similar to yours.....

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  6. Sounds like one I'd have to read. The last picture book on war I'd read was Karen Hesse's The Cats in Krasinski Square and I was heavily affected by the strength ensued from the gloom of war. And children's books tend to feature on Strength ~ I love this. Thanks for recommending this book, Alex!