Harbor Me (hardcover)
by Jacqueline Woodson
Imagine putting 6 fifth/sixth graders into a room without any adults. Wouldn’t you wonder what their conversations would be about? I’d think it would be video games and nonsense, but in Harbor Me, these kids come from very different backgrounds. The narrator is being raised by her uncle after her mom died and her dad is in prison, and her best friend is “rich” but resentful towards the kids who call her that. One kid is African American and learning the “rules” for being black (like interacting with police and playing with toy guns). One is devastated over his father being taken by immigration and not having contact with him. A final kid is Puerto Rican and his culture isn’t respected for being “American” even though it’s part of America. These kids begin to realize that although they are very different, they can still feel compassion for one another, and build bridges. They are basically the hope for our future, because they take the time to listen and understand each other.
What I liked about this book is the way it tells very realistic, yet compelling, stories of kids that truly could exist today. There are stories that will tell JUST an African American kid’s point of view, or an undocumented (or documented) kid’s point of view, or even of of a child with mixed race or a parent in prison, but this book tells them all. Not only that, but it shows that none of that matters when it comes to being friends and showing compassion and empathy for one another. We as adults push our own beliefs upon our children. Let’s make sure we’re moving our society forward and not backward, or letting it remain stagnant by not being more open-minded and willing to change.
What I didn’t like about this book is only that I would have liked more background on each student. I think each of them could have had their own book, and I would have liked to see how their new perspectives from the ARTT room affected their futures. It’s really not something I disliked, but something I would hope for in the future, maybe.
Book 66 of 2018