I’ll Always Come Back to You – Carmen Tafolla and Grace Zong

I'll Always Come Back to You Carmen Tofalla
I’ll Always Come Back to You by Carmen Tafolla, Grace Zong
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers on February 22, 2022
Genres: Children's
Buy on Amazon

I might have to visit a very sick friend,or rescue a sinking canoe,but I will always, always, always come back to you! 
What happens when someone you love heads out the door? When a mother goes out to work and her daughter stays behind, Mom reassures her child that nothing can keep her from coming back home again. Mom promises that she would even ride on a whale or fight off a passel of bears, if that's what it takes to return to her child! Her daughter might have to wait with Gramma or a friend at home. Whether their time apart has been long or short, the family will be together again. 
This humorous and touching book reminds young readers that distance cannot diminish love. Perfect for children struggling with separation anxiety or a change in family life, this book represents a parent’s promise that they will be back, no matter what! Reassuring rhyme and amusing illustrations create a story to cherish when loved ones have gone away—and also when they’ve come back at last.

Separation anxiety is a totally normal thing in young children. As babies, they have no understanding of themselves as distinct entities. As they grow, they begin to develop independence and the understand of themselves as a self, as an individual. Not too much after that, they begin to recognize that if they have their own independent lives and being, then their parents do as well. As just as they are beginning to comprehend the concept of separateness, we often place them in preschool.

That’s a simplification, but it’s a fairly accurate rough outline that explains separation anxiety. About the time kids begin to understand that mom and dad are different people is about the time we feel more comfortable letting them pursue their independent lives with school, babysitters, or relatives and we parents can run errands/go to work/have a date/take a nap.

All of this fairly introspective introduction to say that I’ll Always Come Back to You is a great book that addresses that anxiety and affirms to a child that, no matter what, Mom or Dad intends on coming back. The first half of the book runs through some things that Mom might have to do when she leaves, ranging from the everyday practical things to the absolutely absurd. The second half details what Mom would do to get back, written with hilarious hyperbole. It’s a promise from a parent to a child that even apart, they are still together at heart, and that they’ll come back. I loved that the book didn’t tell the child not to worry or to “get over it.” It validates their feelings, understands their anxiety, and speaks to them with calm reassurance and a gentle love.

Also a thing to note: this isn’t a book you can read without emotion. Do that and the story (and the rhyme scheme) suffers. This is a book that demands a full-scale dramatic reading, a virtual acting-out full of wide eyes and giggling mouths. It invites readers into a shared experience of bonding—a perfect read before a work trip, an overnight stay at a grandparents, or any other major separation.

Grace Zong’s illustrations capture the Tafolla’s vision perfectly, whether it’s the emotion of missing a parent to the absurdity of that parent coming home in a kangaroo’s pouch. The engaging colors and sense of movement and action really complement the text well.

I’ll Always Come Back to You isn’t just a fun book, it’s an important one. If your child struggles with separation anxiety, this is the perfect book to read to them. It’s a comfort and reminder that no matter what, I’ll always, always, ALWAYS come back to you.