|It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts|
It’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe
Early on I came to realize something, and it came from the mail I received from kids. That is, kids at that pivotal age, 12, 13 or 14, they’re still deeply affected by what they read, some are changed by what they read, books can change the way they feel about the world in general… I think writing for kids is profoundly important.
The second “storm book” I read was Karen Hesse’s newest, Safekeeping:
Radley’s parents had warned her that all hell would break loose if the American People’s Party took power. And now, with the president assassinated and the government cracking down on citizens, the news is filled with images of vigilante groups, frenzied looting, and police raids. It seems as if all hell has broken loose.
Coming back from volunteering abroad, Radley just wants to get home to Vermont, and the comfort and safety of her parents. Travel restrictions and delays are worse than ever, and by the time Radley’s plane lands in New Hampshire, she’s been traveling for over twenty-four hours. Exhausted, she heads outside to find her parents—who always come, day or night, no matter when or where she lands—aren’t there.
Her cell phone is dead, her credit cards are worthless, and she doesn’t have the proper travel papers to cross state lines. Out of money and options, Radley starts walking. . . .
Illustrated with 50 of her own haunting and beautiful photographs, this is a vision of a future America that only Karen Hesse could write: real, gripping, and deeply personal.
“Haunting” and “beautiful” are two perfect ways to describe Safekeeping. The new America Radley finds herself journeying through, is disturbingly familiar, and the premise of the story is not entirely far fetched. In the opening chapter, Radley waits for her parents at the airport, and surveys the scene:
Everywhere I look there are uniformed patrols. Their steely scrutiny unnerves me.
An eerie quiet fills the terminal. The only sound is the nearly muted commentary on FOX news. Everyone stares at the screes, watching the same clips of vigilante groups wandering like packs of dogs, frenzied looters racing through electronics stores, round shouldered police interviewing shocked bystanders.
My fellow travelers sit or stand, staring, mesmerized by the images. No one speaks.
It is this new America that Radley must journey through, from Bedford through the border to Canada, where she can safely hide and wait until it is safe to return home. Along the way, she befriends another displaced soul, Celia, who she must protect and find a way to heal. Hesse punctuates each chapter with arresting black and white photographs which allow a visual history of Radley’s journey – we see where she is physically even as we understand what she is going through emotionally. I loved this aspect of the story, it made Safekeeping an even more powerful reading experience.
I am not sure this dystopian novel is one that most of my sixth graders will be ready for, but I know of a handful who will love it….and I know that a number of my ex-students in the grades above will be lining up to get their hands on my copy of the book as well.