A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The List of Things That Will Not Change, by Newbery Award winning author Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me), is a tender and compelling story about divorce and remarriage told in retrospect by a 12-year-old girl. After she hears of her parents' plans for divorce, Bea begins to worry more and has big feelings, which play a role in her behavior, and her behavior starts to get unpredictable. She gets very angry at anyone who calls her names having to do with her parents being divorced, and she gets furious when anyone makes comments about her dad being gay. Her actions include grabbing a cousin's ponytail, shoving, throwing things, "bashing" people, and pushing people. Bea apologizes for her actions and works to control her behavior. People who have different beliefs about homosexuality speak out in hurtful ways. Adults drink wine at a wedding.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE, Bea finds out her parents are getting divorced when she's 8-years-old. Sitting her down for a "family meeting," her parents tell Bea that she would now be living in two separate apartments and that her dad is gay. They give her a list of "Things That Will Not Change," which starts with "1. Mom loves you more than anything. 2. Dad loves you more than anything," and she adds an entry of her own: "Dad is gay." Change is unavoidable, though, and Bea finds that she has to "build a hundred bridges" to everything in her dad's new apartment, "every new lamp, every new fork, even the bathroom faucets." Her eczema is acting up, and she starts acting out. She shoves kids, throws a gift bag at a parent, and she starts to feel pretty crummy inside. Enter a children's therapist named Miriam, who helps Bea learn to recognize her feelings, calm her worried mind, and let her know that she's not a bad person. Bea slowly realizes that she's gaining new family, which can feel confusing at times, but has the potential to fill her with happiness.
Is it any good?
Poetic, heartfelt, courageous and bright, this story about changes in family expertly covers a lot of emotional acreage. Kids will relate to Bea's kid-wise yet innocent voice. She understands why her dad is in love with Jesse -- "The things Jesse brought never felt wrong. They felt like presents." But she can't control her annoyance at people like her teacher Mr. Home, who gives special lunch privileges to kids who get great grades on spelling tests, and Bea never gets great grades on spelling tests. Bea's emotions have all the color, intensity, and flavor of feelings that have never been felt before: the balloon-big feeling of elation, and the dark, itchy feeling of uncertainty.
Author Rebecca Stead crafts an intimate and unique story of loss, change, and hope with The List of Things That Will Not Change. She daubs New York City with a romantic glow, plunking a 10-year-old in the kitchen of her dad's restaurant while she nurses a cut foot, eating homemade butter sprinkled with sea salt on freshly made bread. She paints wonderful characters, like Jesse and Sheila, the sunny Southerners, who bring their love and tenderness to a child set adrift by changes. And she raises a quiet and powerful fist when Bea's dad gets married to the man he loves. The swirling splintering of a child's feelings of loss and love when a family goes through divorce has found a voice in this book.
Talk to your kids about ...
Parents can talk about how divorce is portrayed in The List of Things That Will Not Change. How are divorced families shown in shows and movies? Does reading about divorce or seeing it on screen get to the heart of feelings that kids feel? Do stories help kids understand what happens when families change?
When her dad decides to marry another man, most people in their New York City community embrace their decision. Are some communities more tolerant of people's choices? Why or why not?
Bea's grandfather recorded himself reading stories to Bea's dad. Do you like to listen to stories? Which apps make you feel connected to a story?
- Author: Rebecca Stead
- Genre: Family Life
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Wendy Lamb
- Publication date: April 7, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 224
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 5, 2021
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