What Momma Left Me
  • What Momma Left Me
  • What Momma Left Me

What Momma Left Me

3.0 2
by Renee Watson
     
 

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Serenity knows she is good at keeping secrets, and she's got a whole lifetime's worth of them. Her mother is dead, her father is gone, and starting life over at her grandparents' house is strange. Luckily, certain things seem to hold promise: a new friend, a new church, a new school. But when her brother starts making poor choices, and her grandparents believe

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Overview

Serenity knows she is good at keeping secrets, and she's got a whole lifetime's worth of them. Her mother is dead, her father is gone, and starting life over at her grandparents' house is strange. Luckily, certain things seem to hold promise: a new friend, a new church, a new school. But when her brother starts making poor choices, and her grandparents believe in a faith that Serenity isn't sure she understands, it is the power of love that will keep her sure of just who she is. Renée Watson shines as a new talent in this powerful and ultimately uplifting first novel.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Watson's first novel (after the picture book A Place Where Hurricanes Happen) explores themes of abuse, faith, and identity in an urban setting through the voice, diary entries, and poems of 13-year-old Serenity Evans. Serenity and her younger brother, Danny, move in with their grandparents in Portland, Ore., after their mother dies and their drug dealer father skips town. "Momma is a song that I can't forget," Serenity thinks. "Her melody comes to mind and I realize that traces of her song are still here." She immediately connects with Maria, who attends her new school and church ("She knows that there are some types of sadness that can't be explained"), but Serenity is not immediately ready to open up about the loss of her mother, and Danny starts running with a dangerous crowd. Serenity's struggles and insights, as she wrestles with her parents' legacy and an uncertain future, are inspiring, authentic, and told in a straightforward yet poetic style. The first-person narration is consistent, and the mystery of the painful circumstances of her mother's death--as well as additional tragedies--propels the story. Ages 10-14. (July)
Children's Literature - Michele C. Hughes
Serenity knows how to keep a secret—a little too well. By thirteen years of age, she has learned to keep silent about her father abusing her mother. But when he beats her to death, Serenity starts to question if it's time to start saying the things she knows to be true. Should she tell her grandparents (now her guardians) that her brother is headed down a dangerous path by stealing gift cards and selling drugs? Should she alert someone that her friend's dad is sexually abusing her friend? In the midst of these questions comes Serenity's crisis of faith. She wonders how her grandparents can keep trusting God after all the pain they have experienced. She rebels in little ways, skipping school and hanging out with an enigmatic and forbidden boy. But even that is not sitting right with her. In the emotional climax of the story, Serenity must face the truth of Grandma's words: Life isn't fair, and you take the good with the bad. This leads her to grow spiritually and emotionally, breaking the cycle of secrecy to free her friend by speaking the truth. The characters are believable—her grandparents are the right balance of wisdom and unawareness, and her friends are realistically dramatic junior high schoolers. Spirituality is at the center of this book, both thematically and technically, with each chapter titled with a snippet of the Lord's Prayer (also known as "Our Father"), Serenity's favorite scripture passage. Also, each chapter begins with a poem by Serenity, ostensibly written as part of a poetry journal for a class in which she must define and demonstrate a poetic technique (e.g., simile, personification, sensory detail). Her poems are stirring and powerful, drawing the reader into her internal life with evocative images of her pain and her hope. Reviewer: Michele C. Hughes
VOYA - Lynne Farrell Stover
Serenity Evans is a poet. She is also a survivor. She begins telling her story after the death of her beloved mother who, having suffered years of abuse, has been killed by Serenity's father. She and Danny, her younger brother, are taken in by their maternal grandparents. They adjust to a new routine involving making friends, attending a new school, and participating in numerous church services and charitable programs. Even though their grandparents are nurturing and supportive, Serenity and Danny must work through the trauma they experienced. The decisions they make are not always in their best interest, and the consequences of some of their choices are truly heartbreaking. When Serenity asks herself, "Why do women and girls keep such horrible secrets?" she opens the door to one of the main themes of her inspirational story. Once she realizes that hiding truths does not make them go away, she is able to save herself and those she cares about. The author is a natural storyteller, weaving the details of the daily life of an extended African American family into a complex and often unjust society. Her characters, even as seen through the eyes of eighth-grade Serenity, are believable, multifaceted, and unpredictable. The joy and comfort food provides plays a symbolic role in this story. (Note: The reader is likely to get hungry while reading what Serenity's grandmother is cooking.) While the events, setting, and characters of this story are definitely contemporary, the tale is timeless. Reviewer: Lynne Farrell Stover
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—When Serenity's mother is killed and her father disappears, the girl and her brother, Danny, move in with their grandmother and grandfather, who is the pastor at the Restoration Baptist Church. While dealing with her tumultuous loss, Serenity learns the importance of making wise choices at the same moment her brother begins falling in with the wrong crowd. Starting fresh at a new school holds promising beginnings for Serenity when she makes a new friend and becomes involved with the youth ministry at her grandfather's church. Religion and faith play a large part in their lives. Serenity Evans is a strong African-American character who will resonate with girls who are facing transitions of their own, large or small. Danny's friend's murder near the end of the book creates a disjointed finish to an otherwise well-written novel, but does not detract from the plot development. The overall message of staying true to one's self is strong and reassuring. This debut novel is an excellent choice for libraries serving urban populations, as well as those serving faith-based communities.—Stephanie Malosh, Donoghue Elementary School, Chicago, IL

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781599907048
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
02/28/2012
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
1,372,352
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Renee Watson grew up in Portland, Oregon (where this story is set), came to New York for her degree in writing, and now teaches poetry in the New York City Schools. This is her first book. www.reneewatson.net

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What Momma Left Me 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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