Visiting Day


Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson has written a poignant picture book about a little girl who waits hopefully for her father's release from prison.

Only on visiting day is there chicken frying in the kitchen at 6 a.m. And Grandma in her Sunday dress, humming soft and low,... As the little girl and her grandmother get ready for visiting day, her father, who adores her, is getting ready, too. The community of families who take the long bus ride upstate to ...

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Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson has written a poignant picture book about a little girl who waits hopefully for her father's release from prison.

Only on visiting day is there chicken frying in the kitchen at 6 a.m. And Grandma in her Sunday dress, humming soft and low,... As the little girl and her grandmother get ready for visiting day, her father, who adores her, is getting ready, too. The community of families who take the long bus ride upstate to visit loved ones share hope and give comfort to each other. Love knows no boundaries. Here is a story of strong families who understand the meaning of unconditional love.

A young girl and her grandmother visit the girl's father in prison.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This poignant picture book chronicles a joyful girl narrator's hard-to-bear anticipation and special preparations for a journey with her grandmother to see her father. Both text and artwork keep the destination a mystery, wisely focusing instead on the excitement of the upcoming reunion. As Woodson's (The Other Side) rhythmic prose, punctuated by the refrain ("only on visiting day"), builds a sense of expectation, Ransome (Satchel Paige), too, underscores the build-up. Wordless spreads depict Grandma fixing the narrator's hair and the pair climbing aboard the bus. Meanwhile, the girl imagines her father making his own preparations. Ransome portrays a handsome man in khaki shirt and slacks; a calendar on the wall marks the days to his daughter's visit, hanging next to her artwork accented with red hearts. Ultimately, "the bus pulls up in front of a big old building where, as Grandma puts it, Daddy is doing a little time." Ransome shows barbed-wire atop high walls and a guard tower in stern relief against a perfect blue sky. Throughout, he uses a radiant, rich, marine blue (the bus's accents, the girl's dress and a prison guard's uniform) to contrast freedom and captivity. Told completely from a child's perspective, the narrative makes no judgment about what Daddy did or why he's incarcerated. A shared feeling of hope and family togetherness pervades each spread, from Grandma cooking fried chicken in the morning for the bus ride, to the narrator sitting down with crayons when she gets home to make Daddy more pictures. Any child who has been separated from a loved one can identify with the feelings of this winning heroine. Ages 4-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Jacqueline Woodson burst on the children's book scene with young adult titles that were raw with emotions. She has handled themes of sexual abuse, gay parents, racism, poverty, and prison with spare and honest writing, which has won her awards and faithful fans. Of late, Ms. Woodson has turned her talent to picture books. Not surprisingly, her picture books are winning awards, too. Woodson's Visiting Day is the story of a young girl visiting her father in jail. It is based on Woodson's early memories of visiting an uncle. The book's illustrator, James Ransom, is also African-American. He was clearly affected by Woodson's poignant story and by his own experience of visiting his brother in prison. Ransom's oils are strong, bold and emotional. So is the unnamed little girl who takes center stage in Woodson's story. She wakes on "visiting day" morning, smells chicken frying and hears her "Grandma/ humming soft and low,/ smiling her secret/ just-for-Daddy-and-me smile." Each page has only a few words. Ransom completes these pictures with vibrant colors and skillful detailing. Soon we know this little girl and her world. We see her exuberance and understand her love for her daddy, and its love is tinged with longing for his every day presence. Her grandmother's character is just as clear. The older woman's demand for respect and proper behavior is balanced with a satisfying and steady caring. The daddy's cameo appearance shows the pride he has in his daughter as well as his tenderness. The three have a shared sadness and hopes for a future together. Woodson stays firmly planted in the perspective of a sentient young child who is comforted by the familiarity of her world. She doesn't moralizeabout prison, or even mention the father's crime. The only wrong she alludes to is the little girl's. When a neighbor, Mrs. Tate, comes to bring a present for her imprisoned son, the little girl notes her grandmother's baleful look. That look means, "You better not make a sound about Mrs. Tate not having money to take the bus up there to see her only son." And the little girl sits "quiet, respectful." She is being trained to know right from wrong. She is learning restraint and kindness. Woodson knows right from wrong, too. She knows it would be wrong to place complicated ideas and moral questions in mouth, or mind, of a young child. 2002, Scholastic,
— Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-A little girl shares a special day that starts early with Grandma frying chicken and braiding the child's hair. In quite another setting, her father is buttoning his plain white shirt against a plain blue-gray background decorated only by a child's drawings taped to the wall and a calendar marking off days. A bus takes Grandma and the narrator to a building with high walls and barbed wire where "Daddy is doing a little time." It's a happy visit until they must part and her father goes through one door with a guard standing by and the youngster is led away by her grandmother. Back home, she has her crayons out to make pictures for him and awaits his return. The text is spare, gentle, and reassuring, never mentioning the words crime or jail. Ransome's vibrant acrylic paintings fill each page at home with intense pinks, yellows, greens, and blues in contrast to the monotone hue of the prison walls. Both author and illustrator provide notes that relate this story to their own personal experiences. Use this book with children who have an incarcerated parent as well as with those who have no understanding at all about that painful separation. Woodson's Our Gracie Aunt (Hyperion, 2002) is about children separated from their jailed mother.-Susan Pine, New York Public Library Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A little girl and her grandmother wake early to prepare for the trip to visit the girl’s father. There are smiles of excited anticipation as Grandma fries chicken and braids the little girl’s hair before they catch the bus. The bus ride has a festive air as the riders share lunch. Finally, they arrive at the prison where Daddy waits eagerly to see his daughter and mother. Once home, Grandma reassures the girl that "one day we’ll be able to wake up and have Daddy right there in our house again." Ransome’s (Quilt Counting, p. 951, etc.) lovely, bold acrylic paintings depict the girl and her grandmother in a neat, well-ordered, well-cared-for environment—even the scenes in the prison are cheery and bright and imply that the inmates are not violent offenders. Woodson (Our Gracie Aunt, not reviewed, etc.) and Ransome accomplish the goal of representing a loving family holding up admirably in the face of adversity. Nevertheless, for some it may be difficult not to wonder what Daddy did to land in prison. The girl’s family may love each other unconditionally (as the jacket copy states), but it is a more difficult job for the reader whose questions about Daddy go unanswered. That all the prison inmates but one are black, as are all the visitors, while the prison guard is white raises another set of questions. Although this reflects a reality about disproportionate incarceration rates for African-American men, does it also perpetuate stereotypes? Overall, a sensitive approach to a difficult issue that will certainly provoke discussion. (author and illustrator notes) (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590400053
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD1430L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson has received numerous awards for her middle-grade and young adult books, which include the National Book Award Finalist Hush and the Coretta Scott King Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner Miracle's Boys.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 9, 2010

    Relatable story for children with family behind bars

    What a great addition to my classroom library! This story deals with the rare topic of visiting a loved one in prison. Woodson does an amazing job describing the visits from a child's point of view, and how she looks forward to them. It gives a rare glimpse into this situation that is often not spoken about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2010

    Beautiful look at difficult topic

    I like using this book in my classroom to teach a variety of language arts skills (using pictures to interpret, first person narrative, different writing styles, etc.). The pictures are rich in color, detail, and emotion. The story is a one-day glimpse into a world that many children experience but no one wants to discuss--having a parent incarcerated. There is nothing that makes this scary for elementary children to read, but it's not a lighthearted, happy-ending book either. Admittedly, I get a little teary when I share it! I have had a complaint from another teacher who felt the book was offensive because the characters are African-American.

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