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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations

TRUE (…sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

true (sort of)I was blown away by True (…sort of). I had read Katherine Hannigan’s previous work Ida B. and thoroughly enjoyed it.  For me, True soared far beyond that.

Although it tells the story of three incredible children, the main character is Delly (short for Delaware).  A middle child in a large family, Delly had developed a reputation for fighting and bad behavior.  She is in trouble at school and often with the local authorities.  The significant piece for me was that through Delly’s voice we truly see how she never intended to create such a reputation for herself.  The incidents that have added to that characterization of her in the community are usually things that she didn’t think were “bad” to begin with.

Delly’s story shows us how a reputation, once established, is a hard thing to overcome.  when that reputation is fixed on a child it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  One of the many moments in the book that struck me was a scene between Delly and her mother, Clarice, after another unpleasant event:

[Clarice] “You got good all around you.”  She put her hands out like she was holding it for her.

Delly shook her head hard, because she knew about the good all around her.  She needed to know there was good in her.

When Delly offers friendship to a new student, one who needs it but is terrified to take it, Delly finds that she can grow in ways she never imagined.  Delly’s younger brother, a fellow student named Brud–with whom Delly has rarely interacted until her new friendship creates that opportunity–and the quiet, scared, beautiful presence of Ferris Boyd combine to allow Delly and her story to transcend the pages on which they are written.

Delly’s true unselfish nature and loving heart are revealed when she allows herself to be vulnerable in the areas of her heart which are the most terrifying to do so.  Delly steps outside herself, risks allowing someone else to hurt her own heart in order to help a friend who desperately needs it:

And it was awful, knowing there was such badness in the world.  It was good, though, hearing somebody tell the truth.  Because the badness had been there all along.  Now they could stop it.

After reading her story Delly will  now truly always be with me.  She reminds me to see past someone’s behavior into their heart.  She and her friends remind me to share kindness with the world and appreciate it when it is shown to me.  I cried for Delly and for Ferris and for Brud.  I hurt for them and I was inspired by them.  The strength to reach out is often the hardest for many of us because those reaching hands are sometimes slapped away.  The courage it takes to reach out again after that is mind-bogglingly difficult and wholly inspiring.

True (…sort of) is going on my all-time, absolutely-no-holds-barred favorites shelf.  It’s one of those books I kind of want to carry on my person all the time just so I can be near it.  This is a terrific independent or read-aloud choice.  The book does imply a child abuse situation (deftly and appropriately in all aspects)and as such parents & teachers should be prepared to address questions regarding that in an age-appropriate way.  True (…sort of) is a special, precious reading experience to treasure for a long time after you finish reading.

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