Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Fighting Words

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Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Grades 4-7. 272 pages. Dial Books, August 2020. Review copy provided by publisher. 

Della has always had her sister Suki by her side. Suki looks out for her, even when the going gets impossibly tough: when their mom went to prison, when their mom's boyfriend took them in, and when something so terrible happened that they had to run. Even in foster care, Della knows that she can always count on Suki to be there for her. But when Suki needs help, is Della strong enough to face up to what was really happening in their old house and do what she can to help her big sister? 

This book... my heart... This is definitely a book that will stick with me. Della's story is not always easy to read, but it's an important story. There are kids who will see themselves in Della and there will be kids who start to understand others a little bit better because of Della. You may already know that I am a super fan of Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and The War That Saved My Life is one I recommend over and over again.  Fighting Words is contemporary, but just like in The War That Saved My Life, it has a plucky young heroine facing impossible odds and depending on the kindness of a new caretaker after her biological parents fail her. 

This is a story that could easily be too much for young readers, but Della has a strong voice and she narrates her story with a humor and spirit that make this a really compelling read. It reads like a modern take on The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson and I would also hand it to fans of the searing middle grade memoir Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. Both books take a look at the inner lives of kids dealing with tough stuff at home and how it affects them in school and beyond.