Welcome to another edition of MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY and a look at Renée Watson’s newest contemporary story.

814wnA2wNKLBACKGROUND (From Barnes & Noble):

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.

MY THOUGHTS: Everyone’s family is filled with stories of the past and how everything connects. This tale will have you thinking about your own family and how there might still be some I love you’s that need to be expressed.

Amara flies out to New York City from Oregon with her dad. Her pregnant mom stays home as Amara’s new little sister due is soon. Once in New York City, they stay in Harlem at his father’s house who he has not talked to in twelve years. Something in their relationship caused the rift. Amara only knows her grandfather from conversations on the phone. With a family project she must do for school, Amara wants answers about the past but doesn’t know where to look. No one wants to revisit the bad feelings.

When Amara meets her two cousins they don’t hit it off—especially Ava. She sees Amara as a spoiled brat living a rich person’s life. Not entirely true but to someone living in a cramped space in Harlem, Amara’s setup in Oregon has all the earmarks of the privileged class.

Told in first person through Amara’s eyes, it’s a heartfelt story of discovery. The writing flows in beautiful style and the poetry at the end bring a lasting tribute to all.




  1. Girls will feel an instant connection with Amara. She wants to become her own person instead of fitting in to someone else’s desires. But the truth is found by talking to those people.
  2. Amara’s dad works for Nike. His love of shoes has been passed on to his daughter and it provides some interesting insights into the business.
  3. Black history is woven into the story and it’s a joyous celebration of their contributions.
  4. Amara’s reaction to all the sights of New York City. It reminded me of my first trip there, stopping every block and taking another picture.
  5. Yes, it is possible for a not so fast paced story to glide along in page turning fashion.


Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author, educator, and activist. Her young adult novel, Piecing Me Together (Bloomsbury, 2017) received a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. Her children’s picture books and novels for teens have received several awards and international recognition. She has given readings and lectures at many renown places including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassy in Japan. The New York Times calls Renée’s writing, “charming and evocative.” Her poetry and fiction often centers around the lived experiences of black girls and women, and explores themes of home, identity, and the intersections of race, class, and gender.  (For more visit Renée’s Author website)


An advanced copy was provided through NetGalley for my honest review. If you have time, please comment below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, New Release and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. This sounds like a real winner. Harlem has such an interesting and rich history. It’s a great place to set a story. I will try to get hold of a copy. Thanks for your review.

  2. Sounds like a great story. And I love the Harlem setting.

  3. What an unique story! I admire Amara for going back to Harlem to better understand her father and her own history. Great review!

  4. Thanks for this review! The Nike shoes will definitely intrigue some kids I know.

  5. I also liked this book so was glad to see you did, too.

  6. This looks good! I haven’t heard of it before. I love New York settings!

  7. Pingback: I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE | Always in the Middle…

Leave a Reply to randomlyreading Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.