In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”


My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

SEE YOU AT HARRY’S by Jo Knowles


copyright date: May 2012
primarily marketed for: middle school (age 10 and up)

Everything you have heard about this book is true. 

It is one of those books that will find its way into your heart and nestle in for a good long while.

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles is filled with endearing characters far beyond the protagonist: twelve-year-old Fern.  Fern’s family is made up of a (much) younger brother Charlie, (who only pronounces his /r/ sound when calling Fern’s name), an older brother Holden (who is struggling with his own identity), an older sister Sara (who wears her hair in dreadlocks and torments her siblings as much as she adores them), a mother (who is juggling attending to her husband’s passion for the family business and a house full of children with varying needs), and a father (whose love of his restaurant often comes at the cost of family embarrassment).  The story largely takes place at Harry’s, the family restaurant, which hosts a cast of characters each with their own charm. 

Fern’s story is one of many layers.  She is struggling to find her place in her family, at her new middle/high school, and amongst her best friends.  Fern seems to take care of others quite often.  In fact, that was her mother’s hope for her by naming her Fern after the character in Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and Fern is always trying to live up to her name.

The relationships between characters are so well drawn, I almost want Jo Knowles to meet my family and write them into her books so I can know them on paper like I know Fern’s family.  Somehow she makes these characters with real struggles and real emotions likeable, despite their flaws. 

Through the many layers in the story, Knowles addresses many big issues with grace.  Fern faces the issue of bullying head on—even by a grown-up, and yet she is also surrounded by loads of love and support.  This is the first book that tackles the issue of sexual identity without becoming about that or going over the top, while still not shying away.  When the family experiences unthinkable loss, Knowles pulls readers in so we too experience the loss at the same time we want to reach in the book and rescue the family right out of the truth of their story.  Knowles also has a way of suggesting edgy language, without going there.  It is simply brilliantly written. 

See You at Harry’s is the kind of book that makes me want to run right out and find all of Jo Knowles’s other books.  But I just can’t imagine a better book than this one.

Reading Threads:

4 comments:

  1. It is truly wonderful, I agree. I like this Christy: "Knowles pulls readers in so we too experience the loss at the same time we want to reach in the book and rescue the family right out of the truth of their story." Exactly! Thanks for reminding me how good the writing is.

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  2. C-

    Your review is spot on. Just like you said, "I almost want Jo Knowles to meet my family and write them into her books so I can know them on paper like I know Fern’s family." I loved this book SO much that I'm going to have to buy 2 more copies. One to put in the hands of my adult friends, one to put in the hands of my students, and one to keep selfishly for myself so I can re-read it for inspiration. This is a great year for realistic YA fiction! Wonder, See You At Harry's, One for the Murphy's, and Code Name Verity...I'm excited to see what comes next!

    J

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  3. AMAZING!!! LOVED!!! I am so glad that you selected it for review. I can't wait to start talking it at school.

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  4. I loved this book! it showed me hoe much I should say I love you more.

    ~A

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