What Momma Left Me
What Momma Left Me
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Annotation: After the death of their mother, thirteen-year-old Serenity Evans and her younger brother go to live with their grandparents, who try to keep them safe from bad influences and help them come to terms with what has happened to their family.
Catalog Number: #6519831
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 223 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-547-60173-6
ISBN 13: 978-1-547-60173-8
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2009018263
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
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.
Horn Book
Thirteen-year-old Serenity is carrying a heavy burden of family secrets, including the circumstances of her mother's death. The truth slowly unfolds as she and her younger brother, Danny, learn to separate themselves from their parents' legacy of abuse. Watson's cast of supportive African American community members is effectively drawn and the story includes many well-wrought emotional moments.
Kirkus Reviews
After her mother's death at the hands of her abusive father, African-American eighth grader Serenity Evans and her younger brother go to live with their loving grandfather, a pastor, and grandmother, a church volunteer, in this enlightening debut novel. To deal with her worries—grief; her neighborhood, where drugs and violence remain a constant temptation; her feelings for a boy involved in both; her brother's poor choices; her questioning of God—she turns to her journal, which begins each chapter and includes assigned poems and quotes from the Bible and Maya Angelou. Surrounded by strong women who remind the young teen that she always has options, Serenity grows in quiet fortitude as she becomes more committed to her church and personal ethos and tries to find her momma's legacy beyond shoes, nightmares and secrets. By facing difficult questions, she discovers that individual moments in life, like the ingredients in her favorite red velvet cake, may be unsavory, but combined together, they create a delicious experience. Warm, rich and satisfying. (recipe) (Fiction. 10-14)
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%E2%80%94as well as additional tragedies%E2%80%94propels the story. Ages 10%E2%80%9314. (July)
School Library Journal
Gr 5&11;8&12; 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.&12; Stephanie Malosh, Donoghue Elementary School, Chicago, IL
Voice of Youth Advocates
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.—Lynne Farrell Stover.
Word Count: 49,135
Reading Level: 3.9
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.9 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 138568 / grade: Middle Grades
Lexile: HL630L
Guided Reading Level: Z
Fountas & Pinnell: Z

Rediscover Newbery Honor- and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winner Renée Watson's heart-rending debut, about one girl's journey to reconnect to joy. Serenity 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 who makes her feel connected, and a boy who makes her feel seen. But when her brother starts making poor choices, her friend is keeping her own dangerous secret, and her grandparents put all of their trust in a faith that Serenity isn't sure she understands, it is the power of love that will repair her heart and keep her sure of just who she is. Renée Watson's stunning writing shines in this powerful and ultimately uplifting novel.

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