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The Children’s Book Review
Written by Sara Pennypacker
Age Range: 8-12
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (February 4, 2020)
What to expect: Friendship, Self-Acceptance, Summer, Gardening, Birds, and Film Making
An introvert seeking acceptance from his parents discovers meaningful friendship and a solid sense of himself in New York Times bestselling author Sara Pennypacker’s middle-grade novel, Here in the Real World. Idealism and realism beautifully collide, making it an excellent choice for readers of books like Kate Dicamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie and Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.
Ware’s plans to stay with his grandma for the summer come to an abrupt end when a bad fall lands her in the hospital. With his parents working double-shifts to save enough money to buy the home they have rented for years, his mother insists that he attend the rec center summer camp. This way, she will know he is safe and that he is having some social interactions with peers. To an introvert like Ware—often described as distant and in his own world—this is the worst idea ever. He is desperate for his parents to give him some independence. He wants to be the ‘normal’ kid he thinks his parents desire.
Ware soon discovers that the lot next to the rec center contains the remnants of an abandoned church. It is the perfect escape from the world he doesn’t feel he fits into, where he can imagine a medieval castle. Only, someone else has already claimed the space, a tenacious girl named Jolene who has been using the area to grow a garden. Will the pair be able to share the deserted lot? With her feet firmly planted in the real world—and her mindset to accept things as they are—her views clash with Ware’s idealistic and imaginative thoughts. Little do they know that this summer is going to be one they’ll always remember.
A realistic fiction novel, Here in the Real World is wholly set in the now. Pennypacker’s writing is thoughtful, deliberate, believable, and punctuated seamlessly with touching moments. Ware’s inner thoughts add subtle humor and context to his character, creating moments for readers to understand what makes him tick. Both are interesting characters with their own set of unique troubles. Readers will undoubtedly champion the friendship that blossoms between Ware and Jolene. A fellowship in which a realist might discover the power of a little hope.
Pennypacker has created a beautiful story that is ready to move a wide range of young readers and inspire them to live a purpose-driven life. Here in the Real World would also make an excellent choice for a parent-child book club, reminding any adult readers that, as difficult as it can sometimes be, a child will only be able to spread their wings as wide as the space available to them. Highly Recommended.
You can read the first chapter here: Here in the Real World – Chapter One
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About the Author
Sara Pennypacker is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pax; the award-winning Clementine books and its spinoff series, Waylon!; and the acclaimed novel Summer of the Gypsy Moths. She divides her time between Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Florida. You can visit her online at www.sarapennypacker.com.
Dedicated Reviews allow authors and illustrators to gain prompt visibility for their work. This non-biased review of “Here in the Real World” was sponsored by HarperCollins Children’s Books. Learn more about getting a book review …
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