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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Book Review: Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson


Amara grew up outside of Portland, Oregon, which she does love, but she's always been so curious about her dad's hometown of New York, specifically Harlem. After pestering and bothering her parents about this, they finally agree she can accompany her father on a business trip to the city, when she's assigned a project at school about family and where she comes from. This way she can finally meet her grandfather and cousins. Along the way she discovers her father and his father haven't spoken since she was born. And she's horrified to learn her grandmother died the same day that she was born. 
Once in Harlem, her cousins don't turn out to be perfect, and she doesn't understand the city. She does go to see some things she really wants, like The Apollo, and also some more off-the-beaten path attractions like the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She does get to know her family better, and if she plays her cards right, she might even get her dad and grandfather talking again. She learns a lot about herself, her family's history, and where she comes from both geographically and metaphorically. 

I think the thing I liked the most about this book, is that through Amara's eyes, it will encourage kids to see, perhaps for the first time, that their parents are humans, who once were kids, who might have difficult relationships with their own parents. Kids often idealize and dehumanize their parents into perfect automatons of parenthood, instead of seeing them as flawed, 3-dimensional people. This isn't a front-and-center issue and it's something only adults can appreciate, but I do think it's important, especially today. It was easy to read, compelling, and filled to the brim with new experiences for Amara. She even has a first-time experience of getting into a fight with her cousin and being accused--as a black girl by another black girl--of being privileged. Which she is, although she's never seen her life that way. This is a multilayered book.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Bloomsbury, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

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