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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book includes lots of difficult content -- drugs, child abuse and neglect, incarcerated parents, racism -- but none of it is graphic, and it's mostly told with a certain emotional detachment. Aauthor Sue Stauffacher, who has worked with incarcerated mothers, lifts this gritty story out of the mire with wit, style, and emotion.Harry Sue is a distinct character: She may want to be bad -- and speak in a concvict lingo -- but her heart still shines through.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Harry Sue is living through the trials of Job: Both of her parents were put in jail after her drunken father threw her out of a seventh floor window and her mother was caught manufacturing crank. She has been sent to live with her vicious and abusive grandmother, who runs a daycare center where Harry Sue tries to protect the toddler inmates. Her best friend was paralyzed in a swimming accident. And Harry Sue wants to commit a crime big enough to get her sent to jail with her mom, while in the meantime learning to talk and act like a "conette." But so far her plans to toughen up and develop "a heart filled with cement and covered in riveted steel" aren't going too well. And just like the heroine of her favorite book (not movie!), The Wizard of Oz, she has a long way to go before she can discover what she always knew. Includes glossary of convict lingo.
Is it any good?
The best fiction elevates the human condition into something transcendent, and this novel is a shining example. Harry Sue is mired in the muck of life: There's nothing cute or pretty or sentimental about her. She deliberately talks like the convict she wants to become and deals with problems no child should face with levelheaded, street-smart common sense, leavened with a broad streak of humor.
But author Sue Stauffacher, who has worked with incarcerated mothers, lifts this gritty story out of the mire with wit, style, and emotion. She's a conette who knows the backstory, and doesn't go for the obvious tears, instead treating terrible events with a light touch and then sucker-punching the reader in unexpected places. The complex tapestry she weaves includes a wealth of intriguing secondary characters. This is a highly original tour de force, one that lingers long in the memory, bears multiple readings, and provides grist for many discussions.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difficult content. Is this book appropriate for kids 8-12 like the publisher says? Who would you recommend it for?
Also, this book has had two different covers. The one shown on this review is the original -- Do you think it's appropriate for the book? What kind of cover image would you have created for this book?
For kids who love strong girls
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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.