In this title, award-winning author Renée Watson explores the impact of familial and cultural history through the eyes of determined, curious Amara. The story opens with our protagonist asking her parents for a trip to New York City for her 12th birthday. Although her dad grew up there, she has never met the Harlem-based side of her family in person because of a decade-long rift between her father and grandfather. Regardless, Dad agrees to the trip, and soon she is making her way from Oregon to the other side of the country to better get to know her grandpa, her cousins, and her roots. Using a school project as inspiration and impetus, Amara endeavors to learn as much as she can about the city and to help Dad and Grandpa Earl find a path toward understanding, acceptance, and ultimately, healing. Amara's travels through Harlem are the most poignant moments in the story, particularly as she comes upon landmarks honoring figures of African American history. For a black child who rarely sees her culture reflected in her home state, she considers how these murals and statues act as regular reminders of the power and importance of her people. These scenes are so lovingly detailed that readers may very well hear their own footsteps following close behind the characters. There is a reason that books by Watson are a consistently worthwhile purchase, and libraries serving elementary and middle school-aged children would do well to consider adding this title to their collections. Educators could easily pair this title with a time capsule project similar to Amara's, wherein students fill suitcases with mementos and written works that represent their personal histories and futures. This is not only a natural fit for valuable humanities skill building, but a meaningful opportunity for students—particularly those in underrepresented communities—to celebrate themselves and their identities.
From Newbery Honor- and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Renée Watson comes a heartwarming and inspiring middle-grade novel about finding deep roots and exploring the past, the present, and the places that make us who we are.
All Amara wants for her birthday is to visit her father's family in New York City--Harlem, to be exact. She can't wait to finally meet her Grandpa Earl and cousins in person, and to stay in the brownstone where her father grew up. Maybe this will help her understand her family--and herself--in new way.
But New York City is not exactly what Amara thought it would be. It's crowded, with confusing subways, suffocating sidewalks, and her father is too busy with work to spend time with her and too angry to spend time with Grandpa Earl. As she explores, asks questions, and learns more and more about Harlem and about her father and his family history, she realizes how, in some ways more than others, she connects with him, her home, and her family.