Re-Entry, by Peter Jordan, is a cherished children’s classic. By far the most popular of Peter Jordan’s picture books, this story follows Floyd McClung, his most beloved protagonist (appearing in over fifteen books). Having lasted the test of time (nearly 50 years!), no doubt many of us remember our parents reading this story at bedtime, and in turn, reading it to our own children. A multi-generational book that weaves both art and story (and the first picture book to be nominated for a Nobel Prize), it is a wonderful compendium of color and life lessons that almost certainly shaped the minds of growing children worldwide and across decades.
As the cover suggests, this is the lighthearted tale of a boy (Floyd McClung) who makes a transition from missions to life at home. Coming back from his recent space mission with MI6, Floyd fights off the demons of restlessness, boredom, and PTSD, all while learning to adjust to his ‘happy’ life with his mother and father. Will he ever find happiness or purpose since losing his job for insubordination? Can the average, doldrum, lull of pedantic, every day life be fulfilling, or, as he suspects, will he be despaired until death by the meaninglessness of existence? And what about the bullets, the screams, the awful screeches of dying comrades, and the anxiety of his own impending death that wakes him at night? What of his fits which make close relationships near impossible? All of these questions arise along his bright, family friendly journey to find himself after a life of adventure.
It opens on that iconic scene, his reentry to earth. Leaving his former home behind – Moonbase Alpha – he returns home, straddling the tiny rocket between his legs. As we learned in an earlier story, Bye Bye Traitor Travis, the tiny rocket is used exclusively for agents no longer in her majesty’s service. It is a return of shame. He clings for dear life to the rocket with his thighs, carrying his only possessions in the world: His bag with a slice of pizza stuck to the front, and a copy of Christy – the worst book ever written and mandatory reading for all discharged agents.
There’s no need for me to talk about the minute details of the story, its characters, or its ending as, no doubt, everyone has read this book countless times while trying to send their children to dreamland. Hours and hours and hours of reading the same story over and over, slowly dropping your voice to a whisper, gently turning the pages so as to avoid the slightest sound that might pull them from their half-asleep states until TIMMY WALKS IN THE ROOM AND WAKES THEM UP! CONFOUND IT TIMMY THEY WERE ALMOST ASLEEP! NOW I HAVE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN! I TOLD YOU TO WAIT FOR ME IN YOUR ROOM AND I WOULD BE THERE AS SOON AS YOUR BROTHER AND SISTER WERE ASLEEP BUT NOW THE WHOLE NIGHT IS RUINED! NO YOU CAN’T HAVE A GLASS OF WATER YOU STUPID, STUPID BOY! GO! GO TO YOUR ROOM! NOW LOOK! YOUR SISTER IS CRYING AND SHE’S GOING TO BE UP ALL NIGHT FIGHTING OFF HER PTSD! I CAN’T DO IT, I CAN’T READ THAT BLASTED BOOK AGAIN! WHY GOD?! WHY?!
Re-Entry receives a 7 out of 10 for its endless readability and deeply profound message on the importance of properly treating mental illness and finding meaning in more places than your job. If by some chance you haven’t read it, go to your local bookstore, walk to the kids section and LEAVE TIMMY THERE BECAUSE HE WON’T GO TO BED LIKE I’VE TOLD HIM A HUNDRED TIMES ALREADY! YOU JUST USED THE BATHROOM FIVE MINUTES AGO! GET IN BED THIS INSTANT! GO! GO! Go! go! go. go…