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What Momma Left Me Hardcover – July 6, 2010
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From 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
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
When their father flees after their mother’s death, 13-year-old Serenity and her younger brother, Danny, go to live with their loving grandparents, who support the children as they make their way in their new school, neighborhood, and church. In her journal, Serenity reflects on her hopes and concerns as she deals with a strong pull toward a boy who’s headed down the wrong path, wonders how to help a friend with an abusive father, worries about her brother’s choices, and senses her own moral compass wavering at times. Details of her mother’s death emerge slowly as the novel progresses. Each chapter begins with a poem written in response to a poetry assignment, a quote from a poet such as Maya Angelou, or a passage from the Bible. Packed with events, details, and revelations, this first-person novel creates a believable portrayal of Serenity, struggling through a difficult time but drawing strength from her wise, loving African American family and their broader community. Grades 5-8. --Carolyn Phelan
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Top customer reviews
When I finally picked up What Momma Left Me, I quickly realized how wrong I was. I really really enjoyed this story and loved Serenity's voice. Thirteen year old Serenity and her younger brother 12 yr old Danny move in with their grandparents after their mother is dies. The two are trying to find a new home with their grandparents.
To cope with her loss Serenity writes in a journal. At Serenity's new school, her English class will be studying poetry. The students are required to write a poem in whatever style they learned that week on Friday.
Mrs. Ross, 1 st Period
List Poem: a form of free verse poetry. Write a list poem about ten things you know
10 things I know
Even Jesus wept
Everything tastes better when it's homemade
Passing notes in class will get you in trouble
Nobody likes to be made fun of
True friends come back to you
Saying "I'm sorry" is never easy
A touch from a boy can set your soul on fire
People who pass away
visit you in your dreams
Sometimes doing the wrong thing
is the only way people know how to survive
death is a sneaky thief,
stealing life when you don't expect it.
Each chapter begins with one of Serenity's poems in its own font. The poems were a wonderful surprise and another way to feel connected to Serenity.
Serenity's grandfather is a pastor and she finds herself going to church more than she ever did before. Serenity makes a new friend at Sunday school, Maria. Watson's seamlessly blends faith into the story. Serenity and Maria gossip, talk about boys and go to church on Sundays. Some young readers will be able to relate to their not so perfect behavior at times, talking a little to loud and passing notes in the pew.
Serenity has a crush on a boy names Jay, even though she knows he's trouble.
"Jay gets up and sits at the table. Mr. Nelson takes his math book and opens it to page twenty-five. "Let's start the year off right, " Mr. Nelson says. When Mr. Nelson turns his back to write on the board, Jay closes his book. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a stack of bills. He counts them. The green is moving so fast in his hands, I can't keep up with how much money he has. He must feel me staring at him because he looks across the aisle at me. I try to play it off, like I wasn't just looking at him, like I don't see all that green in his hands. Our eyes meet. I get hot all over and look away. "
Serenity is very vulnerable and here is this attractive badboy ready to sweet talk her. I really enjoyed watching this storyline play out. Waston doesn't ignore Danny, he's also going through it and getting caught up with a bad crowd.
Serenity's father killed her mother. The author doesn't say that Serenity's mother's was murdered or who was responsible until about midway in. This slow reveal worked very well. The information was held back not to tease the reader but because Serenity isn't ready to share or think about what happened to her mother. The first person Serenity tells is Maria. Serenity's mother loved to cook as does her grandmother. Cooking runs in the family. Serenity has fond memories of helping her mother in the kitchen. What Momma Left Me is well layered and very good. Watson is offically on my read it as soon as it comes out author list. ages 10 up
This book is a beautiful story of a young girl coming to terms with her mothers death and dealing with the resulting changes. Each chapter begins with Serenity's journal writings where she writes about everything from her questioning faith in God, her own poems and the voice of Maya Angelou. As Serenity adjust to her fated circumstances she deals with issues many girls do; crushes, new friends and questions about her future.
Yes there is a Christian edge to this story but for those of you who usually avoid Christian fiction, please don't disregard this story....the overall theme is about a girl coming to terms with the tragedy in her life (her mothers death isn't all Serenity has to deal with) her faith is simply part of her recovery process.
A simple, heartwarming, well written story of love, loss and healing. Serenity learns to be true to herself and that a complete life consists of both happiness and heartbreak. Don't let the "childish" cover fool you...definitely a middle grade book and older. I loved it and totally recommend!