Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Word After Word After Word, by Patricia MacLachlan (ages 7 - 10)

Have you ever read a book that you didn't want to finish? Do you zoom through it and start again? Recently I read a book that I just wanted to savor - I found myself just reading a little bit each night, so that I wouldn't finish it. Word After Word After Word, by Newbery winner Patricia MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall), is a beautiful, heartfelt, authentic book that has been my absolute favorite read of the summer. It would make a perfect read-aloud as a family or in a classroom, or an inspiring read for a 3rd or 4th grader.
Word After Word After Word
by Patricia MacLachlan
NY: Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins
ages 7 – 10
available on Amazon and at your local library
Fourth graders Lucy and Henry and Evie and Russell and May meet every day under Henry’s huge lilac bush to talk about things. School’s boring, until Ms. Mirabel, a visiting poet, starts coming to their class to talk with them about writing. The children are curious about why she writes and how she goes about writing, whether what she writes is real, and how much she gets paid.

"I, myself, write to change my life, to make it come out the way I want it to," Ms. Mirabel tells them, and through her visits she helps them become more aware of their writing and emotions. Lucy’s mom has cancer, and Lucy feels that all her stories are consumed with sadness. Evie’s parents are separated and she’s struggling with how to cope. Each of the friends has their own problems, and yet they share these feelings under the lilac bush and explore how to write about them.

Here is one of Lucy's first poems - it took my breath away:
Sadness is
Steam rising,
Tears falling.
A breath you take in
But can't let out
As hard as you try. (27)

(c) Patricia MacLachlan, 2010
At its heart, this book is about the ways that writing and friendships can connect us to our own stories—word after word after word. It is a beautiful, authentic, grounded novel that you won’t want to put down, much less your children.

Read the first part of it on the HarperCollins website to get a feel of the natural, thoughtful language. See The Book Aunt, for a lovely extended review of this and other books to inspire children as they explore writing their own stories.

This book reminded me in many ways of Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech, another book about a child coming to understand the strength of poetry in helping you get to know your emotions. It's a book that kids love, and often they're surprised how much they like it. Another book that families will like is The Dreamer, by Pam Munoz Ryan - it's about the childhood of Pablo Neruda and is all about the power of words and imagination.

The review copy was kindly sent by HarperCollins, the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.


  1. This book sounds wonderful--I'll have to read it. I see you're in Oakland. I'm just across the estuary in Alameda. I just started blogging a few months ago and joined Kidlitosphere recently and am really enjoying checking out everyone's blogs!

  2. Hi Mary Ann,

    This little book is a gem. I read it a few weeks ago and feel in love. Since I borrowed it from the library, I have added it to my list of books I need to own. Your post describes it beautifully and captures the essence of the writing. I also couldn't agree with you more about Love that Dog by Sharon Creech. The past few years the way we talk about Jack you'd think he was a member of our classroom. Children yearn for more and were thrilled last year when Hate that Cat was published. Sharon Creech becomes a favorite author of many of my 4th graders. You remind me that I have several of her other titles to read this summer.

    Love your blog. Thank you.


  3. I've heard such good things about this book. Appreciate your thoughts and insights. MUST read!

  4. Oh, this is a book you have to own and treasure. I keep lending out my copy and saying "I really need this back! But it's so special, you just have to read it!"

    Thanks for the comments and kind words.

  5. This sounds so wonderful I might have to break down and order it! I have her book Once I Ate a Pie which is one of my absolute favorites.

  6. I keep reading about this book but haven't gotten it yet. It's on my wish list! Thanks for your excellent review!

  7. sadness is steam rising... yes. lovely. Thanks for sharing!

  8. An absolutely amazing book! Not only have I shared it with many teachers and students I work with, I have also shared it with my mom (who in turn shared it with her bereavement support group - many whom have begun writing their own poetry for the first time in their lives). It's amazing how reading and writing has the potential to change lives...

  9. Dear friends, thank yo8u so much for your comments. I especially love that your mom has shared this with her bereavement support group. Just a wonderful story.

    many thanks, Mary Ann