27 January 2011

Word After Word After Word

Word After Word After Word is the gentle new novel by Patricia MacLachlan. Lucy, Henry, Evie, Russell and May are fourth-graders who are ready for something new when their classroom is visited by Ms. Mirabel, a famous writer who encourages them to find their stories and to write it, "word after word after word."  The friends gather under the lilac tree in Henry's yard to muse over this advice and to contemplate what Ms. Mirabel might have meant when she told them that real and unreal were pretty much the same. 

Over the next six weeks, as Ms. Mirabel continues her visits to the classroom, the children all use poetry to express what is close to them. Henry writes to hold on to the loving happiness in his family. Russell remembers his beloved dog, Everett. Evie tries to understand how her mother could have left them while simultaneously trying to find a new woman for her father. May struggles to accept that her parents are adopting a baby. And Lucy, who narrates the tale, uses poetry to admit the sadness that infuses her home as her mother battles cancer.

This book felt like a Patricia MacLachlan novel to me. By that, I mean that despite the spareness of the text, the characters felt real and their story was told simply and poetically. This would be a lovely read-aloud for children who are beginning to understand the power of the written word - or thos who are just getting ready to discover the magic in words and words and words.

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