Part of Me: Stories of a Louisiana Family

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
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Gentle, slow-paced but sweet multigeneration saga.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

A teen lies about her age to get a license and a job.


Drunken fighting referred to; a parent beats up a mean coach; animals are trapped, killed (including drowning), and skinned, and a dog accidentally caught in a trap loses a leg; a couple have a physical fight.


An older, married man looks lustfully at a teen; a boy overhears a talk about where babies come from; mention of a period starting.


A bit of moderate swearing ("assholes").


Pop Tarts, Coke, Snickers.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and drunkenness mentioned; an adult smokes; mention of selling marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there's a fairly gruesome scene of a dog caught in an animal trap. Also, there are references to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and sex, but no descriptions or discussion.

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What's the story?

Ten related stories link together the generations of a Louisiana family, beginning (and ending) with Rose who, in 1939, is forced to leave school to help support her family. Though she dreams of being a writer, instead she lies her way into a job driving a library bookmobile into the small bayou communities around Houma.

Her son, Merle, becomes a trapper, until a horrible accident makes him think twice about what he's doing. His daughter, Annabeth, learns courage from a dead boy, and her son, Kyle, changes his mind about books after acting them out for toddlers.

Is it any good?

Kimberly Willis Holt writes gentle little character-driven stories that lyrically convey the rhythms, pace, and quirks of life in the deep South. Like her other books, PART OF ME is a book that only a Southerner could write. It doesn't just describe what a visiting observer could see and hear -- every page is steeped in the languid and sultry cadences, the ancient traditions, and cultural eccentricities of the bayou.

The format -- related short stories crossing four generations -- means that the reader never establishes a deep connection to any one character. Rather, the connection is to a place and a way of life. With its leisurely pace and lack of action, this is not for every child. But for one who has the patience to wait to see what appears around the next bend in the bayou, it can reveal a world few outsiders get to see.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ways in which books play a part in every generation of this story. How do they affect each character? What about those who say they don't like books? This book might inspire your kids to want to know more about their own family history.

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