3 out of 4 stars
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Leaving Home by Judith Hudson is a children’s chapter book about a young Jamaican boy who is struggling to find his place in his family and in the world. Todd lives with his mother and sister since his father has passed away. Although his mother is a devoted school teacher, and his sister is a straight-A student who is invested in becoming a doctor, Todd is unsure of what the future holds for him. The story explores his growth as an individual, the mother’s love for her children, and the struggle to do what is right in difficult situations.
I enjoyed that this book explored themes that children can relate to. Todd must deal with the consequences of disobeying his mother, and he has moments when he wonders how his mother can love him as much as his “perfect” older sister. These pieces of the plot can help children consider their own feelings and actions and understand how their parents feel about them.
However, I didn’t feel that the writing style was particularly suited to children. The book is written in past tense and feels like it is written by an adult looking back on their life, not by a child. This could make it difficult for children to become invested in the main character. At times, the reader feels just as distanced from Todd as he is from his family, as there isn’t a lot of time spent explaining his actions. I think that young readers would enjoy the story more if the author had included a stronger internal narration of Todd’s thoughts. In addition, although the book is titled Leaving Home, there is no mention of Todd’s family moving until the book is 95% complete, which I found confusing.
Overall, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I appreciated the general storyline, but the writing style may not appeal to children as much as the plot and characters will. I only found one grammatical error in the whole book, and I liked that the author included words from the traditional Patois language.
This book is suitable for children in middle school who enjoy tales of adventure and family. Children from all cultural backgrounds should be able to appreciate Todd’s struggles. Parents can use the story to discuss difficult subjects with their children, like the death of a parent. I will include a warning that the book discusses cheating on a spouse, so parental discretion is advised.
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