Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson

Visiting Day (2002), written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by James Ransome, is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s own visits with her favorite uncle on visiting days in prison.

I saw this book at an AEMP (Academic English Mastery Program) conference and had to have it. I knew that this would be perfect for my class because a couple of my students have a relative, usually a parent (usually the dad) who is on “vacation”. I told them to say that, instead of saying jail or prison because it sounds better. It’s not that they’re ashamed, it’s that they don’t want someone judging them because of the bad choices of their relatives.

That being said, on to the story. The book begins with a little girl and her grandmother preparing for their monthly trip to visit her father in prison. Visiting day is very special. On that day they are up at the crack of dawn, frying chicken, cooking collard greens, and baking sweet potato pies.They are going to eat this during their bus ride. They bring enough for them and others on the bus. The little girl is very excited to see her father.

Next, readers are given a look at her dad as he excitedly prepares for his mother and his beautiful little girl. When they arrive, her dad shows them off to all of his friends, holds his little girl and gives her little treats.

The illustrations were beautiful. My students were entranced by them. It helped contribute to the book being a wonderful read-aloud. The content, though adult, was treated in a very kid friendly way. It was still hard for some of my students to hear it. It was especially hard for one of my students to hear since her dad is “on vacation” now. The part that made her feel better is at the end of the book when the little girl says that her grandmother told her that it wouldn’t be like this always; that Daddy would be home soon. The good part about this was that there was no judgment or condemnation in the book. The story is told in a matter-of-fact kind of way. Readers aren’t told (and really don’t need to know) why the dad is “on vacation”. The focus of the book was family and unconditional love.

If you know of a child who has a parent or relative who is incarcerated, get this book for them.

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