Hush

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Hush Book Poster Image
Poignant story of race, identity, and doing the right thing.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Gives insight to aspects of the Jehovah's Witness religion and life as a part of a police family.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about repairing family bonds and finding positive outlets for pent-up energy and worry. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both adults and children offer complicated, nuanced role models, as each have periods of not-so-great behavior and struggles. But there are lessons to be learned in how each person approaches, deals with, and resolves his or her issues.

Violence

An unarmed African-American teen is killed by white officers. A black officer who acts as a witness against those officers is threatened. The witness's family receives death threats and is relocated as part of a witness-protection program. A man attempts to commit suicide in front of his family, and the blood and wound are described.

Sex

Married adults are described as kissing, a teen girl has a crush on a boy, and a girl describes changes to her body and the reaction of neighborhood boys and men to her development.

Language

Mild name-calling and teasing among school children. Adults also do some name-calling, including "traitor" and "liar."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult is shown smoking cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that award-wining author Jacqueline Woodson's Hush deals with the aftermath of two white police officers' shooting of an unarmed black teen, and the fate of the African-American officer who witnesses the incident and his family. Seen through the eyes of the officer's 12-year-old daughter, Toswiah, the story involves the witness-protection program, suicide and depression, and the Jehovah's Witness religion. For the most part, Hush isn't graphic in its description of a few violent moments.

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What's the story?

What happens when everything you knew to be true no longer exists? What happens when the happy family you cherished, the friends and family you held close, and your very identity disappears in the dead of night? Toswiah, 12, faces fear, loneliness, and an identity struggle when her family is forced into a witness-protection program after her father witnesses a terrible act committed by fellow policemen. Will anything ever feel "normal" again?

Is it any good?

HUSH is a moving, disheartening, and somewhat melancholy look into the life of a police family forced into the witness-protection program. Leaving everything behind has a profound effect on the entire family, and author Jacqueline Woodson does a fantastic job making readers a part of the family. She takes you from easily identifying with an all-American, happy family to feeling just as discombobulated as Toswiah does as she struggles to navigate a strange new existence. Woodson takes readers on a journey that isn't easy with such deep sadness, loss, and frustration; at times it's difficult to continue reading. The journey doesn't end happily, but it does end hopefully. 

Originally published in 2002, Hush remains timely amid issues of police violence against young black men in America. It gives a unique perspective on what it's like inside the blue line. There are no easy answers, and Woodson doesn't attempt to solve the issue. Instead, she simply and painfully presents one family's perspective.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this book, written in 2010, is still relevant today. What familiar themes or situations do you see in the media right now that relate to the book?

  • How are people of different races portrayed in the news media? Do you think these portrayals affect people's perception?

  • If you had to leave everyone you knew behind and start over in a new city with a new name, what do you think would be the hardest part of leaving?

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