Patricia MacLachlan’s newest book, Word After Word After Word, is one of those slim reads that is sure to be referred to as a “gem” by booksellers, teachers, librarians and parents. Sometimes, those “gem” books are books that kid readers find mostly yawn-worthy. And this gem also happens to be about what it means to be a writer. Are you thinking “double yawn”? I am pleased to say that I’ll bet MacLachlan’s book will delight children in as many ways as it is sure to charm adults. I loved every page, and I imagine kids will find characters and situations and ideas in this book to hold onto and remember for a long time.
Word After Word After Word is about a group of grade four kids whose lives change in small and big ways when they have the chance to work with a real live author in their classroom. Her name is Ms. Mirabel, and she’s wonderfully eccentric and wise (like all the best authors, right?). She teaches the kids that writing is something an author might do to answer questions, and that when you find a story that is important to you, you will write it, “word after word after word after word.” She helps the kids to see that stories find writers and words can be magical and real all at once. Most of the kids in the tale are dealing with something challenging in their lives – a sick parent, divorced parents, a new sibling, and through writing, they come to see their situations in new ways. Surprisingly, this aspect of the novel didn’t feel forced. You get to read poems that the kids write about their day-to-day experiences, like this gem:
My mother’s wordless humming
The smell of lilacs –
Looking up through branches:
(That one’s by Henry).
I liked how the poems were believable as pieces written by kids – particularly poetic kids, mind you, but I find some kids have tremendous natural gifts for poetry. MacLachlan has far and away succeeded in writing a book about writing that kids will take something from, hopefully find inspiring, and also find sweetly entertaining. It reminded me of Sharon Creech’s Love that Dog, which is a high compliment indeed.
Word After Word After Word is published by Katherine Tegan Books.