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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: FIGHTING WORDS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Introduced by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Tamara DePasquale

Meet 10 year-old Delicious Nevaeh Roberts (Della) and her sixteen year-old sister Suki Grace Roberts, sisters who are fiercely devoted to each other and living in foster care “after they got away from Clifton.”  What follows is a well-written, pace-perfect, character-rich, and honest portrayal of the aftermath of sexual abuse, the significance of words – both spoken and written – and the ability to heal and hope when the appropriate support is provided.   

Della’s voice is authentic, raw, unapologetic, and yet respectful to the reader who’s about to hear her story.  With warnings and reassurances, Della gradually shares the details that led to her and Suki’s placement in foster care: “I’m going to tell you the whole story. Some parts are hard, so I’ll leave those for later. I’ll start with the easy stuff.”  The pacing and amount of information is spot-on for the targeted audience.  While the issues are serious (drug addiction, neglect, colorism, parent incarceration, foster care, bullying, sexual harassment, poverty, depression, anger, suicide, child sexual assault and molestation, and trauma), the reader faces a mirror or a doorway that is wholly accurate and safe at all times and made less burdensome through Della’s occasional wry humor and unvarnished appraisal of others.

In addition to this careful attention to story, secondary characters provide the right amount of support for both Della and Suki.  From Francine and Nevaeh to the Food City staff and Tina and her mother, these characters are well-developed and each plays a vital role in the girls’ healing process.  Though Clifton’s actions are ever present in the story, he is not.  We don’t know much about Clifton, and we don’t need to.  As Francine says, “Their stories are their own.” And FIGHTING WORDS is, indeed, Della and Suki’s story of survival and triumph.    

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Steven Engelfried About Steven Engelfried

Steven Engelfried is the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at sengelfried@yahoo.com.

Comments

  1. Thanks for a great write-up! I agree that Della’s voice rang true for me. She felt real. Her fascination with wolves, her way of replacing swear words with “snow,” how she wanted Suki to make promises and couldn’t quite understand why Suki couldn’t, and her bullheaded determination to do everything she could to put Clifton away for as long as possible all made Della feel like a real person. So did all of her school interactions. I think the first chapter, where Della is talking to the principal, sets the stage and introduces her perfectly. It’s also funny, which is no mean feat.

    I also love how fleshed-out the side characters are, like the lady who works in the deli. And I love how Neveah just tells her mom so matter-of-factly that Della needs to be told the rules sometimes. And how well the mom accepts it. The casual inclusion of Neveah’s own experience with homelessness was also a good touch, and something we don’t see enough in children’s literature. There are a lot of kids and families living in precarious situations, and they are underrepresented in kidlit.

  2. I forgot to add one other thing I really appreciated about this book, and that’s how the author conveys a sense of place. And I think she does it best with the grocery store Della has to hang out in. Kids spend a lot of time in liminal spaces that weren’t really designed for kids to hang out in (lobbies, various church rooms, etc.) while they wait for rides and such, and the author captures the sense of what that feels like really well. Which is all the more impressive since grocery stores aren’t even very typical for those “hang-out-and-wait” sorts of spaces. I was very impressed by the store scenes.

  3. Carrie Bruner says:

    Thank you for the intro, Tamara. Fighting Words is a beautifully written book about such a hideously ugly topic. Despite the TOUGH subject matter, I am so glad that this book exists because, my goodness, is it necessary. And for it to be so well-written is just icing on the cake.

    Della is such an authentic character and reminded me of several students I have taught over the years: that tough exterior and harsh language covering up so much hurt and pain. Despite the difficult topics this book addresses (homelessness, drug abuse, sexual abuse, suicide), the author is so respectful about not placing judgement on the characters for some of the choices they make (Suki arguing with Teena in Food City or attempting suicide are the first to come to mind).

    There are so many things about this book that I loved: Della and her SNOW, the running coffee creamer storyline, and Maybelline and the cookies. However, my favorite scene in this book, and maybe my favorite scene of any book this year, is when the girls in the class have the courage to stand up to Trevor and his pinching/bra strap snapping. It is never too early to start teaching kids about consent. It may sound strange but I was so proud of these characters for that.

    Fighting Words is not an easy read because of the difficult topic, but an important book nonetheless. Bradley’s ability to fully develop her characters and tell important stories with little touches of humor makes her worthy of the Newbery Medal.

  4. Given the subject matter and language, what differentiates this from a YA book eligible for the Printz?

    • Julie Corsaro says:

      To answer your question, Emily, having a believable ten-year-old at the center of the story was one feature that made it a middle grade novel for me. Della’s young perspective was one that not only shielded her from understanding what was happening to Suki, but how it made Suki fiercely protective of her. As far as crude language goes, a YA novel might not have the main character euphemistically saying “snow,” and the sexual abuse might have been explicit in a way that it is not here. Because Suki’s suicide attempt is graphic, I’m guessing the actual Newbery committee might have to wrap their heads around it, despite the many strengths already mentioned, particularly around character development. As Bradley notes in the afterword, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused as children, so it is something that too many young people have experienced directly, which also means even more children have a friend or classmate who has been victimized.

      • Julie, I understand totally the argument that once children have experienced something, no matter how terrible, that reality needs to be reflected in books. I agree with that premise. I find it interesting that historical atrocities are often approached differently than individual ones. There are Holocaust-themed books for middle-grade readers that emphasize either rescue, resistance, or something other than the most horrific realities of that event. Books for younger children about other atrocities, such as slavery, also tend to focus on sad, frightening, but not overwhelming aspects. I’m not criticizing this novel, but rather raising an issue. Sometimes it seems as if books are categorized as middle-grade when the main characters are of that age, on the possible grounds that young adults don’t want to read about twelve-year olds.

      • Cherylynn says:

        I find this statistic interesting. According to the CDC only 9 in 1,000 kids has been abused including sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect among others. I was unable to find these statistics anywhere. I know that it happens more often then we like to think, but this statistic of 1 in 4 and 1 in 6 seems like an awful lot of kids compared to the statistic I could find. In Ms. Bradley’s afterward she said to go to her website for more information. I did and could not find anything about abuse or where she got the statistic. Can someone tell me where these numbers might have come from?

      • Courtney Hague says:

        For Cherylynn-
        I found on the CDC’s website the statistic that 1 in 4 girls will experience sexual assault, though it was 1 in 13 boys. So I’m not 100 percent sure where her statistics are from. But it’s still a disturbing number.
        https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/childsexualabuse.html

      • Leonard Kim says:

        I had trouble absorbing the 1 in 4 and 1 in 13 statistic at first, but after looking at the link, it becomes more credible if you look at the definitions used in the study. Unlike the Newbery, the study defined childhood as through the age of 18, and the study’s definition of abuse is broader than the kind of situation depicted in FIGHTING WORDS. For example, if a 14-year-old touches a 19-year-old cousin once in a sexual way, the 14-year-old is counted as abused in the study (which I am not disagreeing with — just describing what went into the number.) I do believe (I hope not naively) that the number would not be 1 in 4 for the Newbery readership of FIGHTING WORDS.

    • The Printz and the Newbery are given by two different divisions of ALA (YALSA and ALSC). The two committees are totally separate. They do not come together to decide which books are eligible for each award. There is actually overlap as the Newbery defines children as up to age 14 and the Printz is for ages 12 to 18.

      In 2018, Jason Reynolds won both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor for his novel Long Way Down.

  5. Stephanie Mahar says:

    I am only halfway through Fighting Words, but I wanted to say that this book is incredibly engaging and well-written. I feel invested in these characters, I care about them. There are some entertaining aspects that show the girls’ humor and their youth, while also being so very personal and real about traumatic events. Della’s embarrassment about certain things, or her attitude about her and Suki’s education, and the ways that she expresses those things are believable reactions. This definitely invokes a lot of empathy and skillfully covers difficult, important topics.

  6. I don’t know how best to talk about this one. I agree that Della and Francine especially are finely-drawn characters with depth. I agree that the Food City scenes are wonderful. I agree that the reality of parental incarceration and sexual abuse are real and important. But I definitely question the appropriateness for the age group, and the parts about Trevor and the bra-snapping felt inconsistent to me. Overall, I just didn’t love it like I have loved KBB’s other work.

  7. Julie Corsaro says:

    On a different note, one thing I really appreciated about the author’s craftsmanship was how smoothly she moved between the past and the present in the narrative.

  8. Meredith Burton says:

    I appreciated that Bradley was willing to tackle such difficult subject matter in this compelling book. Della’s voice was authentic, acerbic but ultimately empathetic. I’ve read this book three times, the first time at breakneck speed because I couldn’t put it down. On second and third readings, I tried to slow down and sort out my feelings regarding the story. I thought Della’s obsession with wolves was a particularly strong symbol for Sukie’s fierce protectiveness. Della’s friendship with Nevaeh, (including the mistakes Della makes), is authentic.
    While I loved this book very much, I did feel that certain scenes were redundant or tried too hard to drive home a point. I understood the author’s intention in doing this, (emphasizing the meaning of consent), but I felt certain scenes, such as the therapy sessions, slowed the pace a bit. It will be very interesting to discuss this book in conjunction with Saturday’s selection. I will expound more on both books Saturday as I feel that one is more worthy of Newbery consideration than the other. Not that both books are not worthy. Both books are well-needed and are beautiful. One of them just resonated with me more.

  9. Kirsten Hansen says:

    I feel that Fighting Words is a very strong contender, particularly with regards to “delineation of characters.” Francine in particular stands out for me as an example of what children should be able to expect from adults while remaining a character, not just a symbol.

    I imagine that the committee will have a lot of discussions regarding appropriateness for the age group. My thoughts are 1) the Newbery is for ages 0-14. Fighting Words might fall near the upper end of the spectrum but is within the range to be considered for the Newbery. 2) Questions about appropriateness will probably be raised for any book that features child sexual abuse, because child sexual abuse itself is inappropriate, and damaging, and heartbreakingly common. I think that KBB does a good job keeping the age of her readers in mind while writing about this tough topic. The use of “snow” as a euphemism exemplifies this: it keeps the book appropriate, language-wise, for middle grade readers while keeping Della’s character intact and reminding the reader that she has a lot to swear about! Every Newbery doesn’t have to be for every reader, and I can see this book finding its audience.

  10. I have an honest question for those asking if this book is age appropriate for middle grade readers, because I am confused. On the one hand, in Fighting Words, we have children who have experienced sexual abuse, a situation that is tragically common, 1/4 to 1/6, depending on the kid’s gender. So, as another commentator stated above, even if children themselves don’t experience this themselves first hand, there’s a high likelihood that someone they know has. This is reality for many of our kids, right here, right now, whether we like it or not (I know none of us do).

    On the other hand, we have the book Chance, wherein a great many violent, awful things happen. One scene that stands out to me is the guy who gets beaten to death by daily increments for stealing mouthfuls of pita bread. I’m hoping to high heaven most of our young readers aren’t coming face to face with that kind of thing in real life, and don’t need to be prepared to deal with it from an early age.

    What makes Chance a more age-appropriate read than Fighting Words?

    • For me, it was as much the graphic nature of the suicide attempt as it was the sexual abuse, though that is a particularly difficult subject to broach with young readers. I don’t in any way challenge that a book like this should be written and made available to children. The question I have (and I really don’t have an answer for this) is whether the committee should concern itself with the ways a Medal designation might allow the title to “skip” some of the filtering process that helps get books into the right reader’s hands.

      Related/Unrelated: my now 16yo daughter LOVES KBB and was excited to read this title, but she was triggered by it and still holds a very bad feeling about it. Is the possibility of that kind of triggering something the committee should consider?

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        Though it might seem insensitive to an experience like the one your daughter had with FIGHTING WORDS, Sara Beth, I feel like the Committee would need to set aside concerns that a book might trigger a negative, or even harmful experience for the wrong reader. Largely because it’s just too hard to anticipate what content might have that effect on a given reader. While we do need to consider whether “the book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations,” I feel like that guides us towards a broader assessment of readers in general. The experience of one group of readers shouldn’t sink a book’s chances if it does succeed with its intended audience. At the same time, I think bringing up that possibility with a specific example in mind (like your daughter’s) can help us wrestle with the question of whether the book fits that Newbery age range appropriately.

        And that age range discussion can be really hard. So far this week, all four of our books have given rise to questions about that, and we’ll have others coming up I’m sure.

  11. Leonard Kim says:

    I agree with everyone about the strong points of FIGHTING WORDS. I’d like to explore “interpretation of theme or concept” and “excellence of presentation for a child audience” relative to some other books. I think the effectiveness of FIGHTING WORDS may depend on what the reader already knows (i.e., the 1/4, 1/6). Because it is a middle grade book, much has to be unsaid, even in as forthright a book as this. For those readers who know enough to fill in the blanks or tragically have had similar experiences, I think this could be a very strong, significant, and cathartic book. (And I do think that is what Bradley set out to do.) For those young readers who don’t, I wonder what they will understand and get out of this. Will they get the message if what isn’t shown is beyond their imagining? Is it enough that they understand that Clifton did something terrible to Suki? A sentence like, “Sometimes she’d have a funny smell around her, one I couldn’t place” (99) is a powerfully visceral, revolting gut punch, but one likely over their heads. For this reason, I think the Trevor sub-plot actually is an important inclusion, as it is another, wider avenue to the book’s heart for those readers lucky enough to have no clue what the book is primarily about.

    Here is a hypothetical – for a young reader who has no experience with and scarcely even a conception of abuse beyond in-school education, which book do you give them? FIGHTING WORDS? A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS? CHIRP? THE BLACKBIRD GIRLS? Even though Bradley invokes a ten-year-old reader in her author’s note, and as powerful as I found FIGHTING WORDS, I think I’d personally give my eleven-year-old daughter A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS or THE BLACKBIRD GIRLS because, unlike Bradley’s imagined reader, my daughter may need education more than catharsis. Even though A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS is more circumspect than FIGHTING WORDS in what is explicitly shown (i.e., there is no equivalent to Della’s encounter with Clifton, and though we have the evidence of the broken arm and many hazy impressions, actual physical abuse isn’t shown), and even if a young reader doesn’t reconstruct what happened, through Ashander an abusive relationship is more fully and well-illustrated in a way that I feel a reader will learn warning signs and get the message. In some ways, THE BLACKBIRD GIRLS goes further than either book in its depictions (i.e., the cigarette scene, the belt scene), but not leaving blanks children may not be able to fill in, while not crossing middle grade lines, may be warranted if children are really to learn from books the evil adults are capable of. And even CHIRP, which is arguably the least Newbery-ish of the four books, compared to the other books at least shows situations that a young reader may more likely (though I hope never) have to reference and be warned of.

    • Courtney Hague says:

      I see what you’re saying here, Leonard. And I agree that given all the books to choose from this year that deal with abuse, I would probably shy away from this one for just the average child reader. But I think that is more of a reflection of me as an adult than it is on the child reader. Because I think that given the graphic description of what happened to Della in this book, even if the child who needs more of a window than a mirror in this type of book would be able to see that what happened to Suki was worse without it being spelled out. You’re right that the “funny smell” passage made my stomach churn but a child reader probably wouldn’t know what was being implied. However, I think enough hints are dropped that even if a reader just imagined that Clifton hurt Suki in the same way that he hurt Della, just more often and for a longer period of time, that would be enough to get the point across even though with adult eyes we understand that more happened to Suki.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Yes. Again, I thought the book was powerful and good and am really trying more to situate this against other contenders and think through “excellence of presentation” and “interpretation of theme.” A 10-year-old in my school district will have had education about inappropriate touching (though I am not sure what kids understand of such education), so I think most readers would identify what Clifton did to Della as such, and certainly they would feel Della’s terror through Bradley’s writing of the scene. But, what Clifton did to Suki was far, far worse and perhaps beyond their imagining. But perhaps as you suggest that doesn’t matter so much. Here is another point. I think all 4 books effectively explore partnerships and defences and means of support against abuse. But arguably, FIGHTING WORDS is all aftermath and thus the only one that doesn’t really try to explore the relationship with the abusive adult (i.e. illustrate and give warning signs) the way A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS, THE BLACKBIRD GIRLS, and even CHIRP does. I am not saying that’s a minus necessarily — perhaps it’s more effective for Clifton to be an out-and-out monster rather than the somewhat more subtle and seductive adults in the other books. But it’s something to think about.

  12. Julie Corsaro says:

    From the Criteria: A “‘contribution to American literature for children” shall be a book for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.” In addition, “Committee members need to consider the following: Interpretation of the theme or concept [in the context of being distinguished]… Committee members must consider excellence of presentation for a child audience … The award is for literary quality and quality presentation for children. The award is not for didactic intent or popularity.”

    • Leonard Kim says:

      Julie, to be sure, my post was intended to be in-bounds with respect to the Newbery Terms and Criteria. I am not talking about didactic intent at all. Didactic effectiveness perhaps, but more to the point, also “children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations”, “interpretation of the theme or concept”, and “excellence of presentation for a child audience.”

  13. Rox Anne Close says:

    Thanks for the great summary Tamara!. This book was so engaging that I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, crying at times and laughing quietly at different scenes. I wouldn’t stop until I knew that Suki and Della would be safe. Bradley tackled the difficult topics of abuse, drug use, and incarceration with sensitivity, first hand knowledge, and a way of empowering kids to find their words. She kept the age of her reader in mind, and left the reader with the hopeful message that people can and do heal, each person just has to find their own voice.

    I agree with Tamara that the book is well written, pace-perfect, character rich and an honest portrayal of sexual abuse. Della said her superpower was “I don’t take snow from anyone” and she said Suki’s superpower was “She can make herself invisible.” K.B. Bradley showed how Della and Suki’s superpowers helped and hurt them throughout the book and how they found their own voice and overcame the weakness of their superpowers together. I loved the symbolism of the wolf. Della said, “I was raised by a wolf, I like being raised by wolves they live in packs and take care of each other. Suki differed and said, “Wild Animals” and Della responded “Yes, they fight back Suki, Nothing kills a wolf,” Della and the girls in her class finally worked ‘as a pack ‘ against Trevor’s abuse in class, and Della finally convinced Suki through supporting her, to work ‘as a pack’ getting ready for the trial. I liked how the author lightened up a heavy topic with ‘snow’ words in place of cursing, coffee creamer from Food City and singing Skinnamarinkydinkydink.

    There was strong support of secondary characters; Tony and Maybelline at Food City, Della’s friend Nevaeh, Teena and her mother, and especially Francine. Francine showed ‘tough love’ but also saw the real Della. “The person, you are is tough and resilient and loving and kind.” Francine’s tenderness to Della showed through in, ” We are beyond cocoa, aren’t we?”

    This book also showed the holes in the Foster Care system and all the things you miss when a family is dysfunctional; such as birthday parties, learning to swim, sleepovers, collecting boxes of mac ‘n cheese, sand in your brain.

    This book is definitely one of the strong contenders for a Newbery Award, due to how well written, pace-perfect, and character rich it is in dealing with an honest portrayal of sensitive topics.

  14. Thank you for the introduction of FIGHTING WORDS Tamara! I have to say that I read the arc of this book before its released through NetGalley. And it completely blew me away. The voice was compelling. The subject matter though heavy, I felt was appropriately addressed. All the characters felt fully complete, human, and responsible. It too carried a theme of survival, overcoming, and finding some semblance of closure. I found it just as compelling as CHANCE, because they tackle tough situations we can NEVER prepare our children for. War, violence, sexual abuse, drug addiction, mental health, and how people who experience these things cope dependent on their environments. In the same way we are to address racism, we are going to have to see based on the statistics – how important it is to discuss these uncomfortable topics too. And have resources available for kids who have experienced these things scenarios or friends who can help.

    As a parent, I know kids as early as second grade affected by sexual abuse and bullying as early as first grade. I really feel this book falls within the guidelines of addressing such terrible topics in a kid-friendly manner. A lot of the kids right now during this pandemic are being affected as we speak, discuss the merits of this book.

    I feel the author is speaking to the kids, victims of violence/sexual abuse, who want to tell their stories but are unable to – and need to be seen. Representation matters. And there aren’t a lot of books on the market right now like this that tackle this taboo subject with such truth/rawness. Bradley is writing just as Jason Reynolds wrote LONG WAY DOWN for African American kids, the cycle of violence, revenge, and consequences of actions by all parties involved. He writes to the kids growing up in neighborhoods that don’t normally see themselves represented in the books they read.

    I think Bradley did an outstanding job writing about so many things people don’t care to think about because it’s not happening to them or too afraid to discuss. It goes back to the mentality that if I don’t experience it or know of someone experiencing it, it’s not my problem. But we need books to help kids find solutions when there is not an adult in their lives to help. And I feel this book does just that.

  15. Amanda Bishop says:

    After reading some of the concerns about the subject matter in this book I would like to say that I too had concerns while reading. But I think that is from my reading it with adult eyes that could understand the trauma and what Della was going through. I appreciate Bradley’s ability to discuss such an important subject while staying true to the nature of a 10-year old’s understanding. I think this book is so important to help young readers who have experienced such traumas understand that they are not alone.

    I agree with the other commentators on the strength of the characters in this book. I absolutely loved Della and her strong personality and her voice rang so true throughout the book. The supporting characters were wonderful as well. You could really understand what her sister was experiencing, particularly through the eyes of Della.

    This is such an outstanding book in terms of the writing of the characters and the setting. Bradley’s ability to write about trauma in such an honest and age-appropriate way showcases her talent as a writer.

  16. Emily Mroczek says:

    Great discussion, team.

    I really appreciated the scenes about the bra pinching. I thought that was a vivid, realistic depiction of what can happen in a school. Kids feeling like saying something isn’t going to mean anything, kids getting mad at other kids for saying something. Teachers and parents brushing it off. The “boys will be boys” approach, and the whole thought that one girl standing up was not enough… all the girls needed to say how they were affected. I think that was really well done, and something girls that age could definitely relate to.

    Also in response to the age questions// the best response is in a passage of this book:

    pg. 200. Dr. Fremont said, ” What Clifton did to you and Suki– that’s common.”………. you’re probably not the only kid it’s happened to in your class.” I thought for a moment. “You mean in my school right?”……….. Dr. Fremont looked sad. “I mean in your class. Yes. It happens that often. And it happens to both boys and girls………… “I never heard anything like that, I said. “Nobody ever talks about it.”
    “I know, she said. Maybe more people should. Maybe if more people felt they could talk about it, it wouldn’t happen.”

    These problems are happening everywhere and books like these can help reach the kids who need them, which is very important.

    I also think, in regards to the difficult content it’s important to note the authors note. The author’s note is very well written (with the audience in mind) and encourages kids to get help. I especially appreciate this part of the note… “As soon as you can, get help– for yourself or for the friend who trusted you. Tell your parents if you can, or any other adult you trust. If that person doesn’t help you, tell someone else.

    The authors note also even has discussion questions kids can go over with their friends, which are also well done and catered to the age group.

  17. Anna Nielsen says:

    Bradley is surely one of the best writing for the middle grade set right now. This time, she gives us two sisters, Della and Suki, who are surviving things no child, no teen, no grown-up, should ever, ever have to survive. Della is fierce. She is a fighter. When a teacher refuses to hear her, she swears, and gets sent to the principal’s office. The principal suggest she stop swearing, and Della declines. “Probably not… When I said snow {the authorial euphemism for another word altogether}, I got to come down here and talk to you,” she tells the principal. “If I didn’t say snow…” Della has a point, and the principal gets it. Go, Della! The issues she and her sister are dealing with are myriad and awful and far more common than we like to think: a mom with a meth problem, foster care, sexual assault, poverty, fear of homelessness, hunger, you name it. They save boxes of mac ‘n cheese so they always have something to eat. They have to deal with a lot, but they love each other something fierce, and there a re good adults and situations in the world, too, if only they can find them. A fantastic story filled with terrible things that happen to real kids, things that don’t often get addressed in children’s literature. It’s about time. A necessary and beautifully written book.

  18. Leonard and Courtney,
    I agree that kids will be able to fill in what they know. I think that’s one of the things that makes it so brilliantly age-appropriate. You have the every day bra-pinching one, which all kids will understand and relate to (with a reasonable and inspiring triumph over it). You have the attack which is scary and fits clearly into what kids will have learned about inappropriate touching, without showing anything else explicitly. And then you have the most serious level with the older sister. For kids that know more, they’ll be able to fill in the gaps, but kids that don’t will just know that bad stuff like the attack happened all the time to her. Which is plenty for them to know. And then with the sister you also see the long term effects of abuse, but at a distance, so a young reader isn’t engulfed in it.

    Also, I was surprised by how funny the book is, which is one of the other things I love about it. And such great characters!

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