Title: Harbor Me
Author: Jaqueline Woodson
Genre: children’s/ middle grade realistic fiction
Is this part of a series? No.
Publish Date: August 28th, 2018
It starts with six kids meeting in a classroom at their teacher’s insistence to talk. No adults and no off limit topics so long as it’s done with respect. They barely know one another, but as they begin to see the ARTT room as a safe place, they begin to talk about what’s bothering them. The loss- both temporary and permanent- of a loved one, deportation, racial profiling, bullying and change in financial station. As they begin to trust one another, to lean on one another, they find a safe harbor in the storm of life.
Ms. Laverne had said once that they needed to ask themselves a question:
‘If the worst thing in the world happened, would I help protect someone else? Would I let myself be a harbor for someone who needs it?’ Heavy thoughts for a fifth grader…. but these aren’t just any kids. Each one has been shaped by hardship of some sort, each one is strong enough to shoulder burdens that would bury others. This is their story.
I will be buying this book- most likely several copies for loved ones. It’s hard hitting, painful and poignantly beautiful. I loved these characters so, so much. Haley especially. With her mother dead and her father in jail, her uncle is the only parent she has ever really known… so what happens with her father comes home and everything changes? How do you even talk to someone that has been away for that long- especially when you can’t comprehend what he went through? Estaban, keeper of his father’s poetry, was captivating. Amari, who wants so badly to be a man- or at least a tough kid- having to come to terms with things he can no longer do even though his best friend can- all because his father wants to keep him alive. Tiago, who has to watch his mother shink time and again every time she’s told to go back to their own country- all for speaking Spanish. It isn’t even that they can’t speak English, but that the language is ingrained into their Puerto Rican heritage… it’s part of who they are. All of these kids, and the things that they face, could be any one. It reminded me that we don’t know people’s story… it’s so easy to judge someone, you know? And it’s an ugly, ugly thing. But here, these six learned to talk about their issues, and help one another through them. I loved that. I loved that it showed another path- not being scared, angry, hurtful… but harboring one another. Taking their pain. Helping them move forward. It was beautiful.
I mean, the writing got a bit choppy from time to time. Everything is seen through Haley’s eyes and emotions, so that will happen. For the most part, though, it was well written and engaging. It oddly felt far too short, and yet there was so much more here than I would have imagined a novella capable of. I highly recommend this book for readers of all ages. Five stars!
On the adult content scale, these are some really heavy hitting subjects. While it is written for 9+, I would definitely have a discussion at the end. I give it a three.
I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. My thanks!
The book comes out 8-28-18. Is it on your TBR?
Link to book: