Monday, June 05, 2017

Reading Without Walls

Forever, or a Long, Long Time
by Caela Carter
HarperCollins, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

This was a Gene Yang "Reading Without Walls" book for me. Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador of Young People's Literature, has chosen as his platform/project to encourage readers to
1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.
2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book.
Forever, or a Long, Long Time fits the first two categories for me. The foster care system is filled with characters who aren't like me -- I've never been on either the giving or receiving end of foster care. And foster care is a topic about which I know little.

Both fourth grader Flora and her younger brother Julian have been traumatized by the foster care system, but the trauma manifests itself differently in each child. To balance the pain of seeing how these two children have been damaged, the author gives them a loving "forever family" that does everything possible to help the children adapt, learn to trust, and heal. She gives Flora an amazing teacher, who has a realistically nearly boundless supply of patience and differentiation to help Flora succeed. And because the main character is 4th -- going into 5th grade, the book is very sensitively written.

More than anything, this book is a deeply insightful look at what FAMILY means. Flora and Julian's new mom has married a divorced man with a daughter,  plus she's pregnant. When she takes Flora and Julian on a quest to discover their birth family roots, every possible variant of what foster care might look like is in their past, from loving to chaotic to brutally regimented.

This is a book about what IDENTITY means. Flora and Julian doubt the very existence of their birth because they have no baby pictures.

This is a book about TRUST, and what it takes to build trust where none has ever existed.

This is a book about HOPE. Everything doesn't get tied up in tidy bows, but by the end of the book you can see that all the parents' (and teacher's) hard work is paying off and although there will be challenges in the future when the baby comes, progress has been made. Flora and Julian are going to be okay.

This book is NOT The Great Gilly Hopkins (but they might make an interesting pairing). It's been a long time (very long time) since I read Gilly Hopkins, but I don't remember the characters seeming real -- they were more like caricatures. The characters in Forever, or a Long, Long Time are multi-faceted people you get to know from the inside. They are very real. They aren't perfect; they make mistakes.

There is one way that this book might be like Gilly Hopkins. There might be a shiny sticker in its cover's future...


  1. Definitely need to get hold of this one.

    1. I totally thought of you while I was reading it.

  2. First, I love the idea of Reading Without Walls. Secondly, since we are living the life of caring for foster children, I must read this book. It sounds amazing. Thank you Mary Lee!


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