Tuesday, May 28, 2019

HARBOR ME by Jacqueline Woodson.  New York: Nancy Paulsen books, 2018. 176p.  ISBN 978-0399252525 hc. $17.99    Gr. 4-8   JUV

Six diverse sixth graders, who have been the targets of school bullies, while also dealing with social issues at home, find themselves in a weekly ARTT (a room to talk) session without the usual dialog from their teacher.  After an uncomfortable first session, Haley comes up with an idea to record the individual stories of the group.  Everyone can share their personal history at their own pace.  Amari is from a caring African-American family who wants to protect him, but knows they must teach him about the dangers of being black in America - regardless of education or social status.  Esteban is under extreme stress because his Dominican father has been detained by ICE and could be sent back to his homeland any day.  Ashton is white, but his family is without economic or educational advantages.  Tiago and his family of Puerto Rican immigrants, is often harrassed and belittled because they converse in Spanish as much as they speak English.  Holly has been Haley's best friend since birth because their mothers were friends.  Since Haley's mom died, Holly's mother has included Haley in family activities and filled a void with stories about her mom.  Holly has willingly shared her many economic privileges with Haley, but can't sit still in class and has a hard time learning academic subjects.  Haley's story has been told in bits and pieces throughout the book, but comes to crisis as the uncle who raised her is ready to move on to a life his own.  He is actually making way for Haley's dad, incarcerated for the past decade, to step up to his role as father.  It's time for Haley to accept this change and grow with her new community of friends.  Woodson tackles several social and political issues, showing how children are also affected by injustice and prejudice.  Readers will perhaps find their own classmates in this timely story.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

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