Remember Us

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Oct. 2023. 192p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399545467.
Gr 5 Up–Another remarkable ode to Brooklyn and memory from the incomparable National Book Award winner. Twelve-year-old Sage no longer feels comfortable with the girls from her Bushwick neighborhood because she’d rather be playing basketball than worrying about her appearance. The sport is what she loves most in the world and is what unites her and the new boy Freddy. The two exchange player stats and discuss the Knicks, finding a kindred spirit in the other as families are left displaced because of the fires that are mysteriously razing their buildings. Sage’s mom warns that they’ll be moving out soon, to where “sirens didn’t scream deep into the night.” That year Sage also grapples with her grief over her father’s death and a scary and sexist encounter in the park that has her questioning her identity and giving up basketball altogether. Set during the 1970s, this nostalgia-tinged novel takes place when Bushwick was known as “The Matchbox” because of the fires that plagued its streets. The chapters are vignette-like, sometimes featuring only a few sentences. The often wistful text is lyrical, but the nostalgia never overwhelms the narrative. Woodson’s economy of language expertly presents the microcosm of Sage’s community of friends and neighborhood kids and the macrocosm of the external world that threatens to destroy it. Sage’s journey to finding herself while trying to navigate these two worlds will resonate with readers young and old.
VERDICT The power of community and friendship permeates every word in this middle grade novel for all readers. A truly masterly work.

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