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Some Places More Than Others

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
Some Places More Than Others Book Poster Image
Tween girl helps heal family rift in charming novel.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Lots of information about the cultural history of Harlem, New York, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and important figures in black history.

Positive Messages

To love yourself, know where you came from. Understanding brings redemption and growth.

Positive Role Models & Representations

This story focuses on an African American family. All significant characters are black. The book presents a portrait of a family with the capacity to heal and give each other love. There is a family thriving despite the strain of having an incarcerated father.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Some Places More Than Others, by Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Renée Watson (Piecing Me Together), is the story of Amara, an African American girl living in Beaverton, Oregon, who takes a trip with her father to Harlem for her 12th birthday. There she visits her dad's old haunts, the college where her parents met, and sites of New York City. She also meets her cousins and Grandpa Earl for the first time. Her father and his father have been estranged since the day Amara was born, the same day her paternal grandma Grace died. There are a few heavy-handed plugs for Nike sneakers. They set the scene, as Amara's father works at Nike, but they are frequent enough to be noticeable. 

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What's the story?

When SOME PLACES MORE THAN OTHERS begins, 11-year-old Amara is begging her parents to let her travel to New York City with her father when he goes there for business. Amara lives in Portland, Oregon, where her father, Charles, works for Nike and her mother, Leslie, designs dresses and owns a boutique. Amara's mother is eight months pregnant with a baby girl after having had many miscarriages. Her dad's side of the family -- Amara's aunt, two cousins, and widowed grandfather -- live in Harlem. Amara is surprised when her parents relent. Before they go, her mom explains that Charles and his father, Grandpa Earl, haven't really spoken for 12 years. The rift dates to the time Amara was born, which was the same day that Grandma Grace died. Leslie encourages Amara to help her father and grandfather mend their relationship. Also, Amara has been assigned a school project to create a time capsule that captures her family history and hopes for the future. Amara has a week in Harlem to learn what she can about both her family and life in the big city.

Is it any good?

This book about family history and relationships charms from its opening chapter. In Some Places More Than Others, Renée Watson weaves a connection between the complicated realities that characterize New York City, the history of black people in America, and one particular loving and lovable family.

New Yorkers and people who love that city will have fun with the details: the line of taxicabs at JFK Airport, Jamaican meat patties, and taking the uptown train by mistake when you're headed downtown. A strength of this book is that it deals with painful emotions without invoking controversial or disturbing situations. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how family members share their feelings in Some Places More Than Others. Amara and her cousin say things to each other that they come to regret. Charles and Grandpa Earl's hurt feelings build up over years. How does your family talk about feelings?

  • For a school assignment, Amara is supposed to assemble photographs, artifacts, interviews, and symbols with meaning for her family and put them in a suitcase. Try making your own time capsule -- a family tree, a photo album, or an oral history.

  • Have you ever visited a place very different from your hometown? What was the hardest thing to adjust to? 

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