Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson
Newbery Honor author Renée Watson explores a family’s relationships and Harlem—its history, culture, arts, and people.
All Amara wants is to visit her father’s family in Harlem. Her wish comes true when her dad decides to bring her along on a business trip. She can’t wait to finally meet her extended family and stay in the brownstone where her dad grew up. Plus, she wants to visit every landmark from the Apollo to Langston Hughes’s home.
But her family, and even the city, is not quite what Amara thought. Her dad doesn’t speak to her grandpa, and the crowded streets can be suffocating as well as inspiring. But as she learns more and more about Harlem—and her father’s history—Amara realizes how, in some ways more than others, she can connect with this other home and family.
This is a powerful story about family, the places that make us who we are, and how we find ways to connect to our history across time and distance.
I feel like I can just give any Renee Watson book 5 stars before I even start it. I love her writing and story telling so much. This book is middle grade, but perfect for anyone to read.
Amara is getting ready to turn twelve years old. All she wants is to go see her family in Harlem. She’s never met her grandpa or cousins. Only her aunt has visited in Oregon. Amara’s mom is pregnant and doesn’t like New York. Her father who works for Nike is always going on business trips. He grew up in Harlem, but hasn’t spoken to his father in twelve years. Amara’s mom is against the trip even though her dad is going to New York for work anyway. She then gets a school assignment to make a suitcase filled with what makes her, her history and interviews, etc. This is the perfect chance and now that she knows her dad and grandpa haven’t talked, Amara is determined to help their relationship.
Amara’s mom finally gives in and she goes with her dad to Harlem. They are staying in his old house, but he stays away most of the time with work. Amara wants to see everything she can in New York, but also wants to learn her family’s history and the history of Harlem. She gets stuck with her two cousins often, but they don’t care about the history. They don’t understand why Amara wants to take pictures of the things they see every day. She starts spending time with her grandpa who fills her in on a lot of the past. Amara also finds out that her grandpa wanted her father to be someone he’s not. That stood out to her because her mom is always pushing her to wear dresses and she hates them.
There is a lot of history in the book that I loved reading about. Harlem sounds like an incredible place full of history, ancestry, and family values. I loved reading about how Amara really began to understand her roots and that she actually appreciated everything. While she was mature for her age, she does get in over her head.
We pose in front of Harriet Tubman, and I am starting to understand why Big T is always saying there’s no place like New York. No place else that constantly reminds us that we are important, that we come from a people who sacrificed and fought and protested for us to be able to walk these streets free. What is it like to be reminded of this every day?
Just the idea that people like Harriet Tubman, Adam Clayton Powell, and Langston Hughes were thinking that one day someone like me would exist in a free world makes my heart pound, my eyes water.
Warnings for miscarriage and fertility issues. The book has some tough topics at times, but they’re all handled so well (the fallout from the family, thinking a boy needs to play sports, etc.) There is also the death of Amara’s grandma that is talked about. As usual, kids say some stupid and mean things, but nothing horrible. Mostly jealousy.
*quotes taken from advanced copy and may change before final publication*
I gave this book 5 stars. Thank you to Bloomsbury Kids for sending me a copy for review.
Have you read any books by Renee Watson? Does this sound like something you would pick up?