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.

Monday, January 20, 2014


copyright date: January 2014
primarily marketed for:  young adults
“Leaning against my father, the sadness finally broke open inside me, hollowing out my heart and leaving me bleeding.  My feet felt rooted in the dirt.  There were more than two bodies buried here.  Pieces of me that I didn’t even know were under the ground.  Pieces of Dad, too.”
-from The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson is undoubtedly her most powerful work so far.  And that is saying a lot.  Somehow this story managed to charm me, break my heart, coax me to giggle, steal my breath away, and fill me with hope.  From the moment I began reading, I allowed little else to interfere with my path to the last page. 

Hayley has traveled the country with her war veteran truck driver father for years before finally settling down to attend high school and lead a ‘normal’ life.  Fragmented memories of the past haunt both Hayley and her father, constantly threatening to interfere with their abilities to move on.

Although she is continuously in trouble for her attitude at school, being settled means Hayley is finally able to keep friends, and even become involved in a romantic relationship with the quirky head of the nonexistent newspaper club.  However, when people from the past suddenly show up in their lives, Hayley is torn between reaching out for support and pushing people away. 

Like in her other books, Anderson flawlessly builds tension, draws realistic characters who settle into our hearts, and crafts a story with meaning that reaches far beyond the pages filled with ink.  Although the characters are fictional, they are also achingly real.  While I read Hayley’s story, I couldn’t help but think of when a student, whose father had been repeatedly deployed, once said to me, “The war stole my father.  The war stole my family.  We will never be the same.”  This is the power of war.  This is the power of story.  After reading The Impossible Knife of Memory, I will never be the same.  It is the kind of story I am in no hurry to layer another on top of.  This is a book I want to linger in my mind for days before attempting to select one to follow it.  I want to remember this story, this feeling.  No matter how painful, we can never forget The Impossible Knife of Memory.

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