Recently, the 20th anniversary edition of Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly was released. The novel got a new look and opened with Woodson’s thoughts on why this novel remains to be an important one for her readers. Some reasons are good–they give me hope for humanity–and some, well, not so much.
In case you didn’t already know, If You Come Softly is a modern day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. And I just can’t talk about the novel without spoiling it in a major way, SO BEWARE OF SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON: only one of the teenagers die and it’s Jeremiah. That’s one of the tragic reasons why this book remains to be a relevant one.
Police brutality and the way in which the bodies of Black people, even Black children, are seen as intrinsically threatening is not a new discussion for so many. And yet, these are things people–especially non-Black folks–do not often acknowledge, can never completely understand. This book gives readers a start. Of course, it is still at it’s core, a love story–but there are so many different kinds of love in it. It makes sense that the title borrows from this Audre Lorde poem:
If you come as softly
As the wind within the trees
You may hear what I hear
See what sorrow sees.
I believe the book opens with this stanza, so you know what you are in for, you know why you are in for it.
The novel is told through Miah and Ellie’s alternating POVs, from the moment they bump into each other at school, to the growth of their relationship, and through Miah’s murder. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to have written it in this way. The prose, of course, is beautiful in the way that only Woodson can create so much beauty from so much heartbreak. It’s not an especially long novel, but Miah and Ellie’s story are sure to haunt you in ways that Romeo and Juliet’s story never could.
Dog-Eared: highlights and lowlights from the past month in the children’s book world. Brace yourselves for good news and bad. We work in children’s books, and we like to think we are different, somehow. We value “kindness.” The ranks of publishers are populated with women. And everyone is so nice, right? But we aren’t […]
When Wesley Boone writes a poem for his high school English class, some of his classmates clamor to read their poems aloud too. Soon they’re having weekly poetry sessions and, one by one, the eighteen students are opening up and taking on the risky challenge of self-revelation. There’s Lupe Alvarin, desperate to have a baby […]
Let the self-shaming begin, I suppose. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Janet The Water and the Wild by K. E. Ormsbee. Nafiza convinced me to read it (and gave me her copy!), and I loved it. The writing was beautiful and complex, the plot twisty, the relationships reluctant and developing… but large swaths of the plot and most characters’ names […]
Arthur Louis Pullman III lives in his grandfather’s shadow. The first Arthur Louis Pullman, an iconic Salinger-esque author who wrote the American classic A World Away, died in Ohio a week after he disappeared from his family’s California home. What happened in that week—and how much his actions were influenced by his advanced Alzheimer’s—remains a […]
I love verse novels. Verse novels use poetry, rather than prose, to tell their stories, and like graphic novels (and plain old prose novels, for that matter) they can tell just about any story imaginable, crossing genres, styles, tones and levels. Here are just a few of my favourite verse novels, which might serve as […]
Janet How did I come to be so lucky? Erin Bow, whose talk at the Vancouver Writer’s Festival this winter was phenomonal, and whose reading from The Scorpion Rules was uncannily perfect. Are we absolutely certain she’s not secretly one of Talis’ Swan Riders? Also, she said right before the book signing began that she knew […]
Janet The Whole Truth and And Nothing But the Truth by Kit Pearson. I realize I’m very late to the party, but WOW these books are excellent. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. I was pretty sure I’d like this, but the reality was a whole new level of liking and nagging thoughts. Feathers by Jacqueline […]
LGBTQ+ YA with Diverse Characters Characters, according to many mainstream publishers, are allowed to be diverse, provided that they are not too diverse. A teenage girl, for example, can be gay, but not gay and Asian. A child in the fifth grade can have a disability, but they can’t also be transgendered. A parent can […]
Janet The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines: Jewish girl in the USA, 1942, begins detecting the disappearance of a classmate, while hiding her activities from her father and hiding her identity from her classmates. Shot in the Dark by Janet Whyte: biracial boy with degenerating vision (and a great deal of anger about […]