Why Stories Matter: Harbor Me, by Jacqueline Woodson

Harbor Me is a timely intermediate novel about the importance of stories, of empathy, and of understanding. It’s about how the things that make us different can bind us together and make us all better–if only we’re willing to connect with each other.

Six kids of varied backgrounds are put in a room together one day each week. Why their teacher does this is never properly explained, and how they manage to begin relating to each other so quickly defies belief. Perhaps if I were still an intermediate reader these aspects wouldn’t bother me as much, but as an adult reader they made it a touch difficult for me to get into the narrative. In the end, though, those complaints don’t matter much because the stories come together to form something beautiful–something my cold, adult heart can’t deny.

I don’t know that Harbor Me is going to reach anyone who needs to learn its lessons the most. It seems far more likely that its audience will already be receptive to its message, leaving it preaching to the choir. But if it reaches enough young kids and makes them more open to empathy for others in the future, then it will all be worth it.

Please note that I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review, although that did not impact my opinion of the book.

Harbor Me Jacqueline Woodson

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