2018 has been a stellar year for middle grade books with themes on immigration and racial and economic injustice. HARBOR ME is full of relevant themes for middle grade readers. This is another wonderful book by Jacqueline Woodson, who is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and who has won too many awards to mention here.

Thanks to the Kid Lit Exchange for the review copy of this book. As always, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links, which means that Lu and Bean Read may receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) on products purchased through external vendors.

Harbor Me Review

Harbor Me begins with the heart-wrenching words:

“We think they took my papi.”

Six students are designated to a special learners cohort in Brooklyn. Each Friday their teacher allows them 30 minutes to sit without any adult supervision to discuss whatever is on their minds. They decide to record their conversations, each one taking a turn sharing their innermost secrets.

“We think they took my papi.”

This sentence is used as refrain throughout the book, as one of the students struggles to stay engaged in school after an immigration raid steals his father. I almost couldn’t bear to keep reading each time the phrase repeated.

“We think they took my papi.”

The other children share their struggles, each one poignant and plainly stated, appropriate for the middle grade audience. They explore topics of police brutality, mass incarceration, white privilege, and more, in their unique perspectives.

All of these themes are relevant in 2018, but perhaps none more than family separation.

“We think they took my papi.”

This is the phrase that haunts me, days after finishing the book.

And yet, I don’t want to give the impression that this is a dark book. There is enough love, support, and camaraderie among the six students to bring light to these heavy subjects.

It’s a truly beautiful book. Find it for yourself and your young readers.

Get the book

HARBOR ME published on August 28, 2018, from Nancy Paulsen Books.

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