bilingual, children's, Fiction, middle grade fiction, poetry, Young Adult Fiction

Complex Family Separation Topics for Teens

It’s become a bit of a cliche for children’s or YA authors to kill off parents or have their characters search for unknown parents. It’s an easy trope to use to center a story’s actions on a child’s choices. But for those young people who are forced to be separated from their families, this voice may not resonate. And in our current times, frankly, won’t resonate with the world-aware teen. Two such books that discuss this topic for middle graders and teens are Scarlet Ibis, by Gill Lewis and Forest World, by Margarita Engle.

Scarlet Ibis

At 12 years old, Scarlet cares for her autistic brother and severely depressed mother. This tenuous situation leads to her and her brother to foster care, a situation that separates them all and initiates Scarlet’s attempt to reunite them. The writing is done from Scarlet’s perspective, guiding the reader through an empathetic journey that makes her actions and “acting out” understandable and logical. This unique and much needed perspective is refreshing and a true gift from the author for anyone, especially those with foster children in their lives.

Forest World

Free verse poetry is an intriguing and appropriate way to unfold this novel of a family separated and reunited across the Florida-Cuba divide. Told through alternating poems in the voices siblings, Luza and Edver, we see the same family’s story from two perspectives. In addition to the separated family we see them living their lives and experiencing all the teenage experiences in this context. It’s truly a unique and yet universal book.


Black Butterfly – a poetry compilation

I can remember attending a wedding when the maid of honor stood to speak. I knew the relationship between the MOH and the bride was a strong one, there was a lot of love there, a lot of support in tough times, a lot of mutual growth when those tough times separated them. It is difficult to generate a heartfelt speech that communicates that much caring, faith, and love. After receiving “Black Butterfly: The Journey – The Victory” through a giveaway, I wanted to be able to travel back in time to just before that wedding day and hand this book to the her. Many of the poems exude the feelings I know she wanted to express.

The poems touch on a variety of lifelong relationships and messages to friends and family. Many touch on the African American experience specifically and many are universal. There is love and growth as the poems progress.

I would recommend this book to anyone seeking the right words to express complicated, nuanced relationships with family, friends, and community. The poetry itself is written in multiple rhyming styles (couplets, feminine & masculine rhymes).

This review may be found online at Amazon and Goodreads. A paperback copy of the book was also placed in a Little Free Library for others to enjoy.