I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You by Jacqueline Woodson
“‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” My favorite line in the book! Lena is a 13 year old white girl. Her mother died from cancer and since then her father has been sexually abusing her. When Lena swings high she says this phrase because she feels free. I think this is such a great play on words. The other main character is Marie, a 13 year old black girl. Her mother walked out on her and her father after dealing with depression for many years. The book is staged in August-December of the 90s in a small Ohio suburb. Their father’s grew up in the 60s so neither one of them “liked” the opposite race. They didn’t want their children to be involved with the other race either but neither Marie nor Lena could resist being friends. I loved this book; it was a page turner for me even as an adult. I do think although the reading level could be for a fourth grader the level of content wouldn’t be suitable for them. The talk of sexual abuse isn’t something I think a 9 year could deal with especially since Lena didn’t seek help. That would only leave a child that may be experiencing the same thing confused. Both of the girls live a very different life. Marie is well off; her father is a college professor and her grandparents left her inheritance money for when she turns 21. Lena on the other hand has always been poor; her father works but barely makes ends meets. It’s interesting to hear Marie explained how she was so fascinated with Lena. The moment she saw Lena she saw something different in her and was immediately drawn. Marie started out being a follower with her then best friend Sherry but found her own way and made her own decision to be friends with Lena regardless of what people may say. This was a subject I really enjoyed reading about. Many children deal with the battle of fitting in but not making their own choices. They don’t realize being cool can sometimes mean you’re a follower not a leader! Definitely a must read for middle school students!! So many great topics from absence of a parent, abuse, friends, acceptance to racial issues.