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April is a National poetry Month, Sarah begins with a verse novel by Elizabeth Acevedo.
It’s one of the worst things we could imagine – the sudden, tragic loss of a parent. But then imagine that loss brings with it an entirely new world full of family secrets and a shocking reality. All of this happens in the first few chapters of Elizabeth Acevedo’s stunning novel in verse, Clap When You Land, our first novel for April’s Weekend Picks – and, of course, in celebration of National Poetry Month! This is the story of two teenage girls – Camino, who lives in the Dominican Republic, and Yahaira, who lives in New York City – and what happens to them when they learn that their father has died in a plane crash and they each come to find out that he had another secret family, a world away. Imagine that, being sixteen years old and finding out you have a half-sister you never knew about!
The story alternates between chapters told from the two girls’ points of view as they grapple with their grief and this new realization. The reader comes to know each girl in her element; Camino, an avid swimmer and an aspiring doctor in her small tropical town who spends more and more time dodging the unwanted attention of a local man, and Yahaira, a talented chess player in love with her best friend next door in her Morningside Heights neighborhood. In the days and weeks that follow, both girls have to painfully navigate the daily realities of family friends and mourners' well-wishing, funeral arrangements and the expectations of school that have not changed. Yahaira decides that if Papi is going to be buried in the Dominican Republic, that she will be there to see it happen, and thus begins her journey to meet the sister she's only recently discovered.
I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Acevedo. Her first novel in verse, The Poet X, won the National Book Award and was a simply gorgeous story of young Xiomara’s coming of age through the performing of her slam poetry. Her novel With the Fire on High was an unapologetic telling of Emoni, high school senior and mother who works fiercely and tirelessly to protect her daughter, all while daring to dream of her future as a great chef. Just like with Clap When You Land, in both these books Acevedo writes beautifully strong, complex young women through verse or prose that is lyrical and magical. If you've never seen or heard Acevedo read her work, stop what you’re doing right now and go look it up - her performances will leave you tingling, so I also encourage you to check out the audio versions of her books. Listening to her read is nourishment for the literary soul!
Until next week, thanks! - Sarah