A new book by Renée Watson, Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award winner, is always a cause for celebration. In Some Places More Than Others, the Oregon-born Watson has penned a love letter to her adopted home of New York City where, in addition to writing, she serves as founder and executive director of I, Too, Arts Collective, a nonprofit dedicated to nurturing underrepresented voices in the creative arts.
Eleven-year-old Amara lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with her parents and a baby sister on the away. Amara is also eagerly anticipating her upcoming birthday and knows exactly what she wants: to accompany her father, a Nike executive, on a business trip to New York City. Amara wants to get to know her father’s family in Harlem. Her dad hasn’t talked to Grandpa Earl in 12 years, though he is close with his sister, Aunt Tracey. Amara has never even met her teenage cousins.
At first, Amara’s mother is against the trip, which isn’t the only point of tension between the two. Amara balks at the dresses her designer mom makes her wear. She’d much rather wear the new shoes her sports marketing dad can get. Her mother agrees to the trip when Amara begins a school assignment called the Suitcase Project, in which she must fill a suitcase with poems, objects and essays about her family. Amara’s mother also gives her a special task: to make sure that her dad and grandpa have some time alone to reconnect.
Amara’s first-hand discovery of black culture in Harlem is a revelation, as is the news that her father loved to write poetry in high school, something Grandpa Earl didn’t understand. Amara realizes that just as she is feeling pressure from her mother to be something she’s not, her own dad was pressured by Grandpa Earl to be someone he wasn’t. As Amara gets to know her family and the city, Watson expertly balances her heroine’s outward adventures with her inner exploration of identity, family heritage, black history and independence.
With an appealing narrator and a celebration of family and community, Some Places More Than Others is a story for all readers.
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