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Soldier Mom

Soldier Mom

4.2 4
by Alice Mead

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Jasmyn Williams is shocked and angry when her mother, a member of the Army Reserve, is called up for service during the Persian Gulf War. While Jas comes to understand that her mother has to do her job, she wonders, should a mother have a job that might require abandoning her children?

"Jasmyn's ready for her big seventh-grade season in basketball . . . when her


Jasmyn Williams is shocked and angry when her mother, a member of the Army Reserve, is called up for service during the Persian Gulf War. While Jas comes to understand that her mother has to do her job, she wonders, should a mother have a job that might require abandoning her children?

"Jasmyn's ready for her big seventh-grade season in basketball . . . when her home life bounces out of control . . . There's an emotional impact here that will resound with other youngsters making sacrifices." – The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Jasmyn is looking forward to captaining the seventh-grade basketball team when her mother is called up from the army reserves to go to Saudi Arabia for the opening phase of the 1990 Persian Gulf War...Basketball has to go on the back burner; just as bad, Mom's somewhat hapless boyfriend Jake has moved in to care for Jasmyn's baby brother.” —The Horn Book

“[Mead] writes with...compassion and sensitivity.” —Starred, Booklist

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After relating a child's firsthand experience of war in Kosovo in Adem's Cross, Mead turns to the home front for this less harrowing novel set during the time of Operation Desert Storm, told through the eyes of an 11-year-old American. Jasmyn Williams and her 10-month-old brother go to stay with their mother's boyfriend, Jake, when their mother is called to active duty in the Persian Gulf. Besides being worried about her mother's safety, Jasmyn resents her many new responsibilities; she now must cook, clean and baby-sit her brother in the afternoons and has less time for basketball. She fears she will have to relinquish her captain's position to haughty Bridget O'Donnell. The narrative is drawn-out in the beginning and rushed at the end, but the reactions and emotions of the heroine are consistently authentic. The author makes no excuses for the harshness of government policies, and her writing remains sharply focused on Jasmyn's adjustments to change, her growth as an individual and her gradual acceptance of Jake as a substitute parent. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
The careful routine and structure of Jasmyn's life is turned upside down when her mom, a reservist, is called to active duty in the Persian Gulf. The only one to care for Jas and the baby Andrew is Jake, her step-dad. Not one to take his parental responsibility seriously; Jake is not the ideal choice, but one made out of necessity. With her mother gone, a furious Jas struggles with feelings of abandonment, anger, and fear for her mother's life in a war zone. Chaos reigns supreme as Jake neglects his role and Jas is forced to take on the role of both caregiver for Andrew and homemaker. Basketball is Jas's passion and her position as captain of the Pre-season league is threatened when making it to practice is difficult. With the strain mounting, Jake and Jas come face to face in a confrontation, which results in each taking steps toward compromise. Alice Mead, champion of young people, is definitely plugged in to the thoughts and speech of pre-teen girls. Hers is a convincing portrait of the mixed emotions felt by a child when separated from a parent because of war. While not all of their problems are solved, the story ends on a note that Jake and Jas have at least agreed to try harder.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Eleven-year-old Jasmyn's life takes an unsettling turn when her single mother is sent to Saudi Arabia with the Army Reserves at the start of the Persian Gulf War. Left with Jake, her mother's fiance and the father of her 10-month-old half brother, Jasmyn feels alternately abandoned, fearful, and angry. Both she and Jake have plenty to learn about running a household. Jake loses his temper easily, forgets her birthday, and leaves her home alone to care for Andrew for hours. Jasmyn can be demanding, too; she's captain of the girls' basketball team and feels that Jake should change his work schedule so that he can take charge of Andrew after day care. She is also fixed in her belief that if her mother loved her, she would have refused to take part in Operation Desert Storm. Both of these preoccupied characters predictably take a step toward maturity as they begin to consider one another's point of view: Jake begins to accept responsibility for caring for both children and Jas accepts another team member as a cocaptain. During her mother's seven-month absence, Jasmyn has accepted the fact that her mother is doing the job that she trained for and fulfilling her obligation and Jake has become a real part of the family. Lightened by a few subplots-an innocent romance with a boy who teases her and rivalry among the girls on the basketball team-this book offers a sympathetic look at an event that touched many young people.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Mead (Junebug and the Reverend, 1998, etc.) wants readers to know that war is hell, not only for the soldiers, but for the families they leave behind. Both Jasmyn, 11, and her single mother, Paula, are horrified to learn that Paula has been called to serve overseas in the Persian Gulf War. Totally unprepared and with scant resources, Paula has only two days to arrange suitable care for her daughter and Jas's half-brother, baby Andrew. With no other realistic option, she leaves Andrew's immature father, Jake, in charge. Feeling abandoned, Jas is also overwhelmed as her expanded childcare responsibilities infringe on her all-important commitment to basketball. She grapples with Jake's domestic incompetence, emotional unpredictability, and obvious impatience with her. Mead tells an absorbing story, fairly and sympathetically delineating the dilemmas of Paula and Jake, two imperfect adults in a difficult situation. Nevertheless, her true compassion is reserved for the blameless, powerless Jas, who has no choice but to cope with the decisions of the adults around her. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt



“Yeah. Coming.”

“Jas! It’s a quarter to six.”

“Hold on, will ya? Jeez. Can’t you let me find my sneakers? It’s not like Coach is going to start without me or anything.”

I hop into the kitchen, trying to pull on a sneaker and then tie it standing up. My ten-month-old baby brother, Andrew, stands clinging to the seat of the kitchen chair. Every time I hop, he laughs.

Mom bends over and rubs her nose on his. “What’s so funny? Huh? What’s so funny?”

Andrew laughs harder. He has a great big belly laugh that my mom and I love to hear.

I collapse into a chair to put on my other size 9? sneaker. Beginning last year, in sixth grade, kids at school, egged on by Shawn Doucette, called me “Bigfoot.” At first I didn’t mind, but after a whole year of it, I’d had enough.

I tug at my white athletic socks. I’m wearing dark green shiny shorts and a baggy dull gray tank top that says “Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary” on it. The shirt belongs to my best friend, Danielle Roberge, but I borrowed it, maybe forever. I stand up and brush myself off.

“There. I’m ready. How do I look?”

“That shirt is awful,” says Mom, sighing.

I look down at it. “Yeah.” I grin. “I know.”

“Your hair’s a mess, too. Want me to braid it?”

“Nah. It’s just a tryout for Pre-season League. No big deal, Mom. Relax.”

“I am feeling nervous. Maybe there’s a thunderstorm coming.”

Thunderstorms are rare where we live, along the Maine coast. The cold Atlantic air breaks up the puffy white towers of thunderhead clouds that drift across the mountains from New Hampshire on late summer afternoons. Today, August 2, a stiff afternoon breeze has been blowing up from the cove. Mom steps out on the back deck, carrying Andrew on her hip.

“It’s gusty, Jasmyn. Make sure you shut the back door tightly,” she adds.


“I don’t want it blowing open.”

“I’m eleven, Mom. I think I can shut the door by myself.”

I live with my mother and little brother and sometimes Mom’s boyfriend, Jake, although he’s in and out, in a coastal Maine town called Stroudwater. Stroudwater may be small, but there’s nothing small about its dedication to schoolboy and schoolgirl basketball. Making the seventh-grade team is the first big step on the path to high school varsity. Everybody knows it. Half the town will probably show up at tonight’s tryouts. Every girl’s dad will be there, except mine.

We hop in the car, a slightly rusty beige 1985 Oldsmobile. Duct tape patches hold together a perfectly decent red vinyl interior that’s ripped here and there.

The engine catches. Mom tromps quickly on the gas, but the engine stalls anyway. I smell gasoline. The engine has flooded. Ho-hum. The seconds are ticking by.

We watch the Parnells, the people next door, water their garden. Now Mrs. Parnell is cleaning their above-ground pool. One day, Danielle and I found a couple of frogs floating around in there. We couldn’t figure out how they jumped thirty-six inches into the air to get over the side. The frogs were dead, because they can’t live in chlorine.

If the Parnells weren’t so grouchy, maybe Danielle and I could be floating around in the pool instead of frogs. We’ve asked them a couple of times, but they’ve never said yes. Just when you think you are their permanent enemies, however, they smile and act nice and give you zucchinis.

Now I’m nervous. It’s much too late to walk. “Want me to take my bike?”

“Not yet. Hey,” Mom says, “you think I’m a quitter? Huh? When the going gets tough—”

“No!” I yelp, and clap my hands over my ears. The saying is “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that. It’s one of those boot camp things.

My mom went through six weeks of basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. She is not a quitter. She stays in great shape, jogging, working out, lifting weights. She can do anything her country asks of her. Right now she’s working for the army as a supply coordinator at an office in Portland.

My mom is tall. My dad, an air force pilot in Japan, is tall. I have tallness in me, waiting to come out. I am a big kid. Everyone says I will be huge because of my long legs and big feet. I can dribble between my knees. That’s how I make my move, my under-the-basket, between-the-knees-dribble, turn, fake, and layup shot.

As we wait for the gasoline to calm down inside the carburetor, Mom sighs and says something really strange. “Don’t ever think you’re more special than other people, that you don’t have to work as hard or suffer as much.”

“Huh?” I look at her. What’s that supposed to mean? Suddenly I feel desperate to get to tryouts.

Mom’s still staring at Mr. Parnell. He’s digging up potatoes. Now Mrs. Parnell is bringing over the wheel-barrow. From a distance, they look cuddly and cute, like the apple dolls at the church craft fair.

They live to our east, right at the top of the cliff above Spar Cove, in a big old farmhouse they can’t take proper care of anymore. On the other side, the house faces the channel and Moorhead Island.

“Oh, I don’t know. Don’t take being in Pre-season for granted, I guess. Remember to work at it every day.”

“Yeah. Well, yeah. I will. Besides, if I don’t, you’ll remind me, right?”

She doesn’t answer. Just looks down at her lap. Something is up. This is absolutely not normal.

“Right?” I ask again.

Mr. Parnell is standing up now, staring at his tomato plants.

“Come on, Mom. Let’s go. Please? We’ll be late. Danielle thinks Coach is going to pick me for captain. If you’re team captain, you have to help set up and put equipment away at the end.”

Mom turns the key again. The engine starts. We back slowly out of the driveway. As we start forward, the car gives two big lurches, but then, thank God, the engine catches for real. “Mom, hurry, okay?”

“Quiet!” she snaps at me. “Just be quiet!”

I shrink down in my seat. Wow. It’s not like her at all to lose her temper like that. She usually warns me first. What on earth is up?

Meet the Author

ALICE MEAD has written several books about children and war, including, most recently, Dawn and Dusk, an NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. She lives in Maine.

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Soldier Mom 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was super exciting and funny. I love it and whenever I need a book to read, this is one of the books that pops into my mind.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm only on the 5th chapter but I'm already enjoying it.