Book Review: See You at Harry’s

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles.  May 2012. 9780763654078. Gr 5-8. – Reviewed from ARC

Fern’s family is a book family.  Each of her siblings are named for book characters.  Her older brother Holden is named for the main character in her mom’s favorite book, and Fern herself was named for the girl from Charlotte’s Web because, as her mom says, “From the moment you were born, I could tell you had a special soul.  I knew you’d be a good friend. A hero.”  Fern names her younger brother Charlie after her favorite book at the time, which was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,  but she finds her Charlie is nothing like the Charlie from the book, who was sweet and quiet.  Her Charlie is three years old, and while he has sweet moments, he is a handful.

Fern’s family is also a restaurant family.  That doesn’t sound so bad, but when Fern’s dad includes the family in the commercial for the restaurant with little Charlie saying “See you at Harry’s” in his sweetest toddler voice just before Fern starts middle school, the opportunities for embarrassment are everywhere.

It turns out that the commercial is the the least of Fern’s concerns as she starts middle school.  Now that she rides the same bus as her brother Holden, she has to watch him be bullied by kids on the bus while no one does anything about it. Holden doesn’t want her to tell their parents about the bullying or the reason he is being bullied—he hasn’t come out as gay to anyone yet and wants to do it when he is ready—but Fern can’t bear to watch her brother be treated unfairly without doing anything.

Then a family tragedy changes everything, and everyone deals with it differently.  Fern isn’t sure where to turn with her feelings of guilt and sadness when it seems like her family is falling apart.  In the end, they find that they can’t change what happened, but they still have each other.

This book made me cry and hug my daughter tightly.  I hope young readers will be just as moved to appreciate what they have and stand up for those they love no matter what.

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