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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Harbor Me, by Jacqueline Woodson, the 2018-19 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, is her first middle-grade novel since winning National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming. It celebrates the importance of allowing young people -- fifth-graders in this case -- a safe space in which to share their stories. The book deals with immigration and class issues, police brutality, driving under the influence, parent death, trust, and breaking down walls between people of different backgrounds to find common understanding and experience. Parents should be prepared to discuss the government's enforcement of immigration laws, anti-immigration sentiment, police brutality, and "the talk" often given to black boys about the police, parental loss, isolation, and peer counseling.
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What's the story?
In HARBOR ME, six fifth-graders who are already considered an experiment because they are "special needs learners" are put together to talk among themselves for the last hour of class. They all think it's a dumb idea until Estaban's dad disappears and they suspect he's been deported. When the worry becomes too much, Estaban starts to open up. Haley records their first talk, and slowly each one of them -- Haley, Estaban, Amari, Ashton, Tiago, and Holly -- tells the story of their life into Haley's recorder. Everyone has a story, and everyone's story deserves to be told. The question is: How will the story end?
Is it any good?
Jacqueline Woodson weaves a masterful tapestry of stories illustrating the lives of everyday American kids dealing with serious issues, including racial profiling, deportation, and incarceration. Harbor Me is familiar, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, as Woodson shows what happens to the real families behind the headlines. As the kids open up and find shelter in one another, they find strength, support, love, and hope as well.
It's refreshing to see kids who actually talk rather than tweet, text, and Snapchat their feelings. Young readers will love to see what they have in common with the characters, and parents and teachers will love the diverse perspectives and can use Harbor Me to kick off discussions of many important social and political topics in the news.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how middle school relationships are shown in Harbor Me. Is it easier or harder to connect with kids your age with so many different ways to connect on social media?
How does the way the characters in the book feel about the issues and incidents they're dealing with compare with the way the media portrays such issues?
What makes a family? What do families have in common? What are some of the differences?
- Author: Jacqueline Woodson
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
- Publication date: August 28, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 12
- Number of pages: 192
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.