North of Everything

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
North of Everything Book Poster Image
A family moves from Florida to a Vermont farm.

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

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this simple story follows the aging of the narrator, whose father falls ill with cancer and dies.

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What's the story?

A simple story. A family -- mother, father, son -- moves from Florida to take up farming in Vermont. Through the seasons a new baby is born, the crops are brought in, the father grows ill and finally dies of cancer. And the seasons go by, the baby grows, the son takes on the duties of a man too soon, and life moves on: summer, autumn, winter, and spring.

Is it any good?

Of all the stories that are told, there are none so poignant, so lovely and heartbreaking, as life. Just life, with its seasons and tides, with events little and large, with no particular narrative thread other than the threads of a life, spun, woven, tangled, and merged with others. The author captures this beautifully in a series of free-verse poems that sing the song of life.

What he doesn't capture is the voice of the boy whose poetry journal this is supposed to be. It's written in the first person, and this is a mistake, because the voice is that of an adult poet. The poems are sophisticated and beautiful, but there is no growth in ability, no reason given why this boy is writing in poetry, no connection between form and content. An unfortunate flaw in an otherwise lovely book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the central metaphor, the seasons of life. The poetry can inspire children to keep their own poetry journals.

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