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The Way a Door Closes

by Hope Anita Smith
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Published by Henry Holt, 2003
52 pages
ISBN: 0-8050-6477-X

Ages 10 - 14

Hope Anita Smith uses short poems to create snapshots of 13-year-old CJ and his family. Written in CJ's first-person voice, the poems resonate with love and warmth as CJ describes life with his grandmomma, parents, and siblings. The African American teen's sense of himself and his family's history is strong and he is hopeful about the future. Then CJ's father loses his job and can't find another. The tension in CJ's once harmonious home reaches a breaking point when his father walks out the door-and doesn't return. "Trust me, / I can tell a lot by the way a door closes." CJ's sadness is deep. His grandmomma, a voice of wisdom throughout the book, tells him, "There are lots of ways of leaving. / Your daddy / left /a while ago. / Now he's just gone." But CJ not only misses his dad, he feels that he must become the man of the house and try to take care of his family, although his mother tries to assure him otherwise. It's hard for CJ to feel optimistic about anything, let alone the idea that his father will come back, making the uplifting but not unrealistic ending of this poem cycle all the more satisfying when CJs father does return. Shane Evans's fine illustrations accompany the poems and have a similar snapshot quality. CCBC categories: Poetry.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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