Thank you It’s a Military Life for inviting me to your blog.

Gretchen McLellan

I am an army brat, daughter of a decorated veteran of three wars and married to a decorated veteran as well. A former reading specialist, I am now dedicated to writing for children and am the author of five picture books. Giving voice to the experience of military kids has been one of my life’s missions. With the publication of WHEN YOUR DADDY’S A SOLDIER (Viking 2022) I feel I have partially accomplished my goals. A companion title WHEN YOUR MOMMY’S A SOLDIER and two middle grade novels set on bases in the States and Germany are in the works. Through my work I hope to hold a mirror up for military kids so they can see themselves in books. I also hope that my stories offer a window into our lives for those outside the community to develop understanding, compassion, and appreciation for our service.

Gretchen McLellan

One cold Veteran’s Day as I sat down to write, my heart was tearing apart thinking about all the children and spouses of soldiers on deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. I ached for the soldiers too. I lifted my penand WHEN YOUR DADDY’S A SOLDIER poured out of me. I am always grateful when stories arrive fully formed as this one did. I think I’d been writing it in my heart for years. It is informed by my own experience, the experience of many of my students, and the experience of children I met visiting Operation Purple Camps in Oregon. It is told through the eyes of one small boy who loves his daddy with all his heart and wants to always be together. It follows this boy from hearing the news that daddy is going to war through daddy’s homecoming and redeployment.

I hope it honors the wide range of feelings and challenges military children and families experience and celebrates their strength too. Of course, that first draft written on Veteran’s Day went through many revisions.

With the help of my critique group that includes a brat and female veteran, by the time I showed the story to an agent, it was quickly sold. My editor at Viking brought the best out of the manuscript with insightful questions and paired it with an illustrator with military family as well to ensure that the book was grounded in authentic experience. The tenderness, love, humor and respect in E.G. Keller’s pictures attest to this experience. Many people are surprised that in traditional publishing the author and illustrator almost never have direct contact. This process allows the illustrator to bring another perspective to the story and always bears deep fruit. My favorite example in our book is after the little boy finds out that Daddy is going to war. The text states that he tries to act brave like a soldier, but later hides in his fort and cries. I’d always imagined the fort to be a boy-sized, but Keller drew a tree fort big enough for Daddy too. In one of the most touching scenes in the book, Daddy has climbed up into the tree fort and is wrapping his strong and gentle arms around his son to comfort him as he cries.Book Cover, Gretchen McLellan

I dedicated WHEN YOUR DADDY’S A SOLDIER to military children everywhere. I want them to know that they, their lives and their stories are important to me. I am deeply grateful to my editor and Viking books for publishing my story, but one story cannot represent every person’s experience. Military families are sorely underrepresented in American literature. I encourage you all tell your own stories through words, images, melodies and art. Parents and educators, please encourage your children to do so as well. I welcome your responses to my book and encourage you to leave reviews on Amazon. Please request that your local library acquire the book too. It’s important that we support the books written about military lives so that more will be published.

Please visit me at and check out my other picture books. MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3 and BUTTON AND BUNDLE in particular were written with themes close to the military kids heart: processing change and transitions, honoring the past while moving forward, and the bittersweet of saying goodbye. Once again, thank you so much for inviting me to your blog.

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