Soldier Mom

Jasmyn is horrified when her single mother is called up from the army reserves to go to Saudi Arabia at the start of the Persian Gulf War. Her mother is gone two days later, leaving Jasmyn with Jake, her mother’s boyfriend and the father of her baby half brother. Suddenly Jas finds herself in charge of running the house and caring for the baby. Now there’s no time for practice with her school basketball team. Jas can’t understand why her mother has a job that forces her to leave her children. If only Jake were a more responsible adult. Feeling abandoned and overwhelmed, Jas wonders how much longer this can go on.

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From Publishers 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.
Jasmyn is an immensely appealing character who manages to cope with an increasingly chaotic home situation. . . . [Mead] writes with the same compassion and sensitivity to the disruption of family life, the uncertainty, and fear she portrayed in Adem’s Cross.—Booklist
From School Library Journal
Grade 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 
From Booklist

When Jasmyn’s mother, an army reservist, is called for active duty in the Persian Gulf crisis, the family has little time to prepare. Jake, her mother’s fianceand the father of Jas’ half-brother, Andrew, reluctantly agrees to care for the children. Eleven-year-old Jas knows it’s a poor arrangement: Jake has little interest in adjusting his life to accommodate the kids, leaving Jas with the brunt of caring for Andrew and managing the household. Basketball has always been Jas’ passion and refuge, but even that suffers because of her responsibilities at home. She’s angry at the army for making her mother leave, angry at her mother for leaving, and angry at Jake for his ineptitude. Jasmyn is an immensely appealing character who manages to cope with an increasingly chaotic home situation, but Mead never falters in preserving the voice and reactions of a typical preteen. In the end, she neatly eases the tension in a believable, uncontrived truce between Jake and Jas that offers hope for the beginnings of a real family relationship. Although Mead focuses here on the effects of war on children whose parents are soldiers fighting on a distant front rather than in their own country, she writes with the same compassion and sensitivity to the disruption of family life, the uncertainty, and the fear she portrayed in Adem’s Cross (1996). –Chris Sherman

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
From 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)

Each of my books about kids in other countries–Iran, the Balkans, Sudan–was created when I got to know kids from other cultures who finally had been resettled in my town of Portland, Maine. They are now American kids, my neighbors and yours, who came from poverty and war.

Read about other parts of the world and take a journey there through the eyes of other kids your age. Travel by stories!