Word After Word After WordFourth graders Lucy and Henry and Evie and Russell and May meet every day under Henry’s huge lilac bush to talk about things. School’s boring, until Ms. Mirabel, a visiting poet, starts coming to their class to talk with them about writing. The children are curious about why she writes and how she goes about writing, whether what she writes is real, and how much she gets paid.
by Patricia MacLachlan
NY: Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins
ages 7 – 10
available on Amazon and at your local library
"I, myself, write to change my life, to make it come out the way I want it to," Ms. Mirabel tells them, and through her visits she helps them become more aware of their writing and emotions. Lucy’s mom has cancer, and Lucy feels that all her stories are consumed with sadness. Evie’s parents are separated and she’s struggling with how to cope. Each of the friends has their own problems, and yet they share these feelings under the lilac bush and explore how to write about them.
Here is one of Lucy's first poems - it took my breath away:
Sadness isAt its heart, this book is about the ways that writing and friendships can connect us to our own stories—word after word after word. It is a beautiful, authentic, grounded novel that you won’t want to put down, much less your children.
A breath you take in
But can't let out
As hard as you try. (27)
(c) Patricia MacLachlan, 2010
Read the first part of it on the HarperCollins website to get a feel of the natural, thoughtful language. See The Book Aunt, for a lovely extended review of this and other books to inspire children as they explore writing their own stories.
This book reminded me in many ways of Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech, another book about a child coming to understand the strength of poetry in helping you get to know your emotions. It's a book that kids love, and often they're surprised how much they like it. Another book that families will like is The Dreamer, by Pam Munoz Ryan - it's about the childhood of Pablo Neruda and is all about the power of words and imagination.
The review copy was kindly sent by HarperCollins, the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.