Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

When the world seems like it’s falling apart everywhere we turn, it’s always good to know that younger generations of people are gaining the same knowledge and understanding of the world. We may not be able to protect our young people from the prejudice and stereotypes and hate that surrounds them, but if we open up the floor for them to speak their truth we might find that what they say actually matters.

Here’s more about the book

37584983It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat—by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them—everything from Esteban’s father’s deportation and Haley’s father’s incarceration to Amari’s fears of racial profiling and Ashton’s adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.

I am a huge fan of Jacqueline Woodson and reading Harbor Me was just another way for authors to speak directly to kids about things that are happening in real life. Seriously, I read this book in two hours. I thank a little of that to the fact that it was less than 200 pages, but the writing itself keeps you intrigued and wanting to hear stories from the kid’s perspective.

This book definitely read like these kids were The Breakfast Club. Six kids from various different backgrounds are placed in a classroom at the end of every Friday to just talk. Talks don’t need to be about anything in particular as long as talking gets done. What happens is that six complete strangers from different places in life suddenly become each others’ confidant and friend.

The story delves into current issues happening in America’s history. Everything from African Americans being shot for holding fake guns to the deportation of some illegal immigrants. It even covers how white people are feeling isolated for just being white. Jacqueline Woodson isn’t afraid to speak for kids when many adults already assume kids don’t understand.

From the way she writes, you already can tell that these kids are like sponges. They understand that New York was first inhabited by First Nations people before pilgrims from other countries took over and claimed the land theirs. They understand that they’re on the brink of adulthood, but still want to stay kids playing in the street. They even understand that six people alone in a room can either be enemies or become friends and on top of that know that the best thing to do is be friends with each other.

I’m actually jealous of middle grade kids who will be reading this book. Like the kids in this book, I feel like this story will spark conversations. It’s definitely not the adults teaching children here, but children having honest conversations, expressing their opinions. I mean the fact that these kids have an opinion even if they don’t understand it is fascinating. I’m honestly floored, so floored by how amazing this book is.

It’s also a good read if you’re an adult. I think it sheds a little light on the fact that kids are aware. They know what’s going on at home and they know what’s going on outside the world. They just need the confidence and honesty that you’ll listen to them when they do speak.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

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