My friends, David and Gracie, recommended Word After Word After Word to me. It was written by Patricia MacLachlan who also wrote the Sarah, Plain and Tall books (among many others). I really enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t one of Liam’s favorites. I think I would have enjoyed it at his age (11) mainly because I was an aspiring writer and had lots of thoughts and emotions that I felt I needed to express. You can click the link below to see what Liam has to say about Word After Word After Word.
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Ms. Mirabel is a famous author who visits a 4th grade class near the end of the school year, inspiring them to write in their own unique ways. Each one of the five students has something that troubles them that they work out through their writing. One girl’s parents have separated; a boy’s dog died; another girl’s parents are adopting a baby; a boy wants to capture the happy moments of his family; and the narrator of the story, Lucy, is struggling with her mother’s long-term illness. Ms. Mirabel inspires each one to express their thoughts and feelings, and even inspires their uptight teacher, Miss Cash, to express her feelings.
The message of Word After Word After Word is that we all have something to say, and that our words are valuable to those around us.
Parents might want to be aware that some of the children are facing heavy issues such as parents’ separation and the threat of divorce, a parent’s serious sickness, and parents adopting a new baby. One boy works through his grief over the death of a pet. All the subjects are handled gently, but you might want to be aware of the topics addressed in this book, if these are fears your child is facing.
My Mom-Meter gives Word After Word After Word an overall safety rating of 2 (Moderately Safe) for ages 9 and up.
The Lexile rating for Word After Word After Word is 450L.
Category ratings (click on the category to see specifics):
Lucy’s 4th grade class has a guest teacher for the last few weeks of school: Ms. Mirabel, a bestselling author. She inspires the children to write in their own way. Lucy learns to write our her fears for her mother, who has cancer. Henry writes to capture the fleeting moments of a good life. Russell writes to process his grief over losing a beloved dog. Evie writes out her hopes for her father, who is separated from her mother and raising Evie and her brother, Thomas. Evie sees an attractive new neighbor and hopes that her father will fall in love with the neighbor and marry her (turns out the neighbor is a nun, and Evie’s parents get back together). May’s parents have decided to adopt a baby boy after having 4 girls, and May is very angry about it. She learns to love Russell’s baby brother, Oliver, and writes out her feelings. By the time her parents bring the baby boy home, May is ready to love him. Even their 4th grade teacher, Miss Cash, learns to loosen up a little and express herself in a poem. At the end of this story, the children’s parents all come to the school to read their poems, and they all learn a little more about each other.
- Evie’s parents are separated. She says “that only cruel and uninterested parents sent their children off to camp in the summer.” Evie’s parents had sent her off to camp, and when she came home, her mother had moved out “temporarily.” It seems that her parents have been separated for a while. Do you think that sending children to camp is a mean thing? Are you afraid that something might happen when you are away? You might want to talk with your children about why some couple separate.
- Lucy’s mother has cancer. “Sadness filled up my house.” You might want to talk with your kids about cancer and about any fears they have that you will get sick.
- Russell’s dog died, and he writes a poem to process his grief. If you have lost a pet, did Russell’s poem make you feel sad?
- Lucy tells Evie “You can’t just pick out some woman for your father.” Evie wants to know why she can’t, and begins to cry. Evie is sad because she misses her mom, and she wants her dad to be happy. Have you ever wanted to fix something for your parents? What was it? Did you try to fix it? How did that make you feel?
- The neighbor that Evie wants her father to fall in love with is a nun. You might want to explain what a nun is to your child, since it is not explained int he story why she wouldn’t be interested in marrying Evie’s father.
- Evie finds out that her mom wrote poetry. Lucy thinks “I knew about things that parents didn’t tell you… that they were getting sick and maybe weren’t getting better. They wrote poetry in books. They sang above the lilac bush. Who were they really? Parents thought you didn’t know things, though my mama said children knew everything. What was unreal? What was real?” You might want to talk with your kids about what they think about this paragraph.
- Lucy’s mother cries when she reads Lucy’s writings. “You never told me you were sad and scared… you could have told me.” Lucy responds “No. It was too hard to say. But I could write it.” Are there things that are too hard for you to say? Would you like to write them out for me to read later?
- “Peed” is used once in reference to a dog.
- There are several references to a wet diaper.
- Evie calls herself a “big fat crybaby” twice. Henry tells her that she is not fat twice.
- May says “My very, very, very dumb mother is going to adopt a very, very dumb baby.” Lucy tells her that he mother is not dumb, but actually very smart.
- There are a few references to babies being “ugly,” but they are loved.
Potentially Offensive Behavior:
- Henry calls his parents by their first names.
- Describes Ms. Mirabel as having “long, troubled hair and a chest that pushed out in front like a grocery cart.”
- Lucy tells Evie “You can’t just pick out some woman for your father.” Evie wants to know why she can’t, and begins to cry.
- The neighbor that Evie wants her father to fall in love with is a nun.
- Evie’s parents are separated and she doesn’t think they will get back together.
- Lucy’s mother has cancer and she is afraid her mother will not get better.
- Lucy mentions that her mother lost her hair because of cancer.
From an eleven-year-old’s perspective: “This book was not my favorite because there wasn’t any action. But I can see why other people (like Mom) would like it. It reminded me of Because of Mr. Terupt (book review here), but without the multiple perspectives. I think would have liked this book more if it was longer and you could follow each character more.”
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