Often times I didn’t even know until a Grandma slips or the Auntie comes in hurried and frazzled to pick up a student. Something is said and we all go on as if this is normal for all children but inside our heads we each react. Auntie or Grandma thinking darn I shouldn’t have said that. The child with eyes are down is sure this is going to not go well tomorrow in class. I with my heart stopping, not knowing how best to reach and help this child with a secret -the inside and the outside life.
The secret is where is Mom? Mom has been gone but not gone. She is referred to but never comes to school events. Grandma is the go to person always. Mom is in prison.
This is the topic that Baskin take on in her new book released this last spring. It is short with easy vocabulary but a hard topic. Ruby is living with her Aunt, whom she calls Matoo, as in Ma number two. One thing she wants this summer if a true friend but how do you have a true friend when you have such a large secret.
Ruby has managed for years to keep this secret inside her. She has learned through the weekly visits to Mom in prison to hold onto her emotions, to hide her thoughts. She is good at making the world look “normal” until she meets Margalit.
Baskin is a master at slowly taking us on a journey of understanding, of finding the true heart and emotions of her characters. She not only helps us understand the fears and secrets of children with a not so normal life but also takes us on a journey into the fears, sorrows and personal disappointments of mothers who made serious mistakes and now are living out the consequences of those choices.
This book would be a great read aloud with lots of discussion. It is a book that helps us discuss what empathy is, the importance of sharing and talking about our fears and how easy it is to misunderstand things when we keep them to ourselves. It also opens the door to a discussion on judging people. There is so much here in such a little book.
You will remember Baskin for Anything but Typical, which came out in 2010. In this book she takes on the topic of autism. If you haven’t read this one you should. She also has a third book called The Summer before Boys which appears to be just as powerful a read.
Baskin is a honest and clear writer. There are many passages that would be wonderful to use as mentor texts for student writers as well as using the three books as an author study.
Have you read this one? Let me know what you think!