Friday, February 24, 2012

The Way a Door Closes

The Way a Door Closes is a perfect example of why novels in verse belong in our classroom libraries.

At a slim 52 pages, it manages to meet many of my students' needs. Its length is not intimidating to developing readers; if it weren't for the cover illustration of adolescent boys, it could be confused with a picture book. Throughout the book are moving illustrations by Shane W. Evans, which may assist readers who are struggling to paint mental pictures of the story.

While the writing is simple and the length is short, it covers a heavy topic: what happens to a family when the father leaves. Author Hope Anita Smith begins the book with a portrait of a happy family, with thirteen-year-old CJ's observations of his life with his two siblings, parents, and grandmother. When CJ's father loses his job, he withdraws and then one day does not return. Smith handles the subject delicately, showing the repercussions for the family. His mother tries to move on, his grandmother holds the family together, and CJ tries to take on the role of the "man of the house." It isn't easy, but CJ maintain his loyalty to his father and believes he will return. I loved the section entitled, "Diamond in the Rough":

     Daddy has always spoken loud

     of being black and being proud

     of honest pay for a job well done,

     a father’s dream for his oldest son.

     He gives me words, each one a gem,

          words I wish someone had given him.

Smith treats the father with more generosity than he may deserve and it manages to be refreshing. Not all fathers who leave are gone forever. The Way a Door Closes does not delve into what the father's return means, but the sequel Keeping the Night Watch does.

The Way a Door Closes won the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe New Talent Award and deserved it. I was touched by the struggles of CJ and his family, and hope that it can provide hope or solace for boys in similar situations.

This is my first post for Born Bookish's Novels in Verse Reading Challenge. I've taken an interest in free verse novels recently and wanted to do something fun with them. I've decided to have a Free Verse Friday, featuring novels in verse.

Amanda's challenge features three levels, with the highest being "Sonnet". I'm signing up to read 12 books, but know that I will read many more. You should sign up, too!


  1. I'm so glad you reviewed this book! I had naively decided I didn't want to read it just b/c I don't care for the cover. But after reading your review I got all excited and added it to my library list! Aaaand, your new novel in verse feature just made my day!! I started Under the Mesquite this morning and got the best surprise when I opened the 1st page and realized it was a n-i-v :)

    1. Katie,
      I was going to say that you should do the challenge because it only takes one book in a year to meet the requirements, ha ha!
      I'm jealous, I've been looking for Under the Mesquite.

  2. Hi Miss K,
    Great review! I had never heard of this one before. Sounds like it deals with some very heavy issues for such a small book. I'm glad you enjoyed it =)
    I love your idea of Free Verse Friday! I'll be looking forward to checking back next week!

    -Amanda (BornBookish)

  3. My absolute favorite novel in verse is Hidden by Helen Frost. I don't know if it could be called free verse though. If you read it, give me your professional opinion. :)

    1. Helen Frost's name has come up in my verse novel research, but her books aren't available at my library. I've got to hunt down Hidden. Thanks for the rec!

  4. I finally read this book last night and absolutely loved it! There was just something so special about it! Glad I came back to re-read your review cause I had forgotten there was a sequel =)


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