Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for My Jasper June, by Laurel Snyder. I was so excited to be asked to join this tour, as I read my advance copy of the book this past June. I was in the middle of my own life changes (a huge move across the country), and the beauty of the writing and the friendship within were just what I needed along the way. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom and enter for a chance to win a copy of this book - which will be sent to the winner by the publisher.
When your life has changed drastically, as Leah's life has when we first meet her, you can feel like you've been left behind by everyone to whom you had been deeply connected. Leah is clearly walking around in a daze. In her numbness, she's narrating her life inside her head, instead of really feeling anything. Snyder does a wonderful job of showing that to us, and I immediately felt the ache of her loss of normalcy. Leah glides through neighborhood and friendship traditions, but she knows she just doesn't fit anymore. "I had been a part of something, a puzzle piece, and now it was like a bit of me had broken off and I didn't fit the puzzle anymore."
I love how deeply we feel this loss with her. We see her acknowledge the changes, and we see her decide to let go of old friendships and connections that just aren't working anymore.
The best part for me, though, was seeing the power of the hope she feels once she meets Jasper. The magical friendship that hadn't been part of her old life gave her the chance to begin to make new choices. When Leah takes the tiny step of sharing her name with Jasper, I knew she was on the path to a new beginning.
Another thing I appreciated about this book was how no one was the "bad guy". Leah's parents were loving and human. The way they coped with their family's loss was unhelpful for Leah, but didn't come from a place of trying to harm her. They were hurting too, and it took the outside influence of Jasper's own situation to snap them out of it. Leah's friends and neighbors were also just trying their best. The truth is that no one really knows how to help someone who is grieving, and so a lot of us get it wrong. I was thankful for those portrayals in the story and I hope that it will help me - and all of those who read the book - as we attempt to be there for those we love in times of loss.
Losses separate us. Secrets separate us. Numbness separates us. Yet there will come a time when something will crack and let the light in. My Jasper June shows us that we can be the light that slips into those cracks, as long as we are looking for them.
Who will love this book?
Honestly, I think there is something in this book that is so desperately needed for all of the upper elementary and early middle school students I've ever taught. Currently, I can think of a few students I would like to immediately give it to. Those are my students who hunger for what they call "real stories". They really want stories about regular kids working through real life situations. Hand it to them first.
If you are giving this book to a child who loves to write, be sure to have them read Laurel Snyder's blog post about this book. It is called "FAILURE IF YOU LET IT: A TALE OF EXTREME REVISION".
How can I use this book in the classroom?
I'm so glad you asked! My Jasper June would make a wonderful read-aloud that showcases the power of beautiful writing as well as empathy and friendship. It would also be fabulous for small book groups. Walden Pond Press has a teacher's guide available that has some excellent discussion questions and activities you can use as a starting point.
About the Book
Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island, returns with another unforgettable story of the moments in which we find out who we are, and the life-altering friendships that show us what we can be.
The school year is over, and it is summer in Atlanta. The sky is blue, the sun is blazing, and the days brim with possibility. But Leah feels. . . lost. She has been this way since one terrible afternoon a year ago, when everything changed. Since that day, her parents have become distant, her friends have fallen away, and Leah’s been adrift and alone.
Then she meets Jasper, a girl unlike anyone she has ever known. There’s something mysterious about Jasper, almost magical. And Jasper, Leah discovers, is also lost.
Together, the two girls carve out a place for themselves, a hideaway in the overgrown spaces of Atlanta, away from their parents and their hardships, somewhere only they can find.
But as the days of this magical June start to draw to a close, and the darker realities of their lives intrude once more, Leah and Jasper have to decide how real their friendship is, and whether it can be enough to save them both.
R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder, had this to say: "This book is a treasure -- a touching story of friendship, loss, and finding beauty in the everyday, with characters who stay with you long after you've turned the final page. I absolutely loved it."
About the Author
Laurel Snyder is the author of picture books and novels for children, including National Book Award nominee Orphan Island and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner Charlie & Mouse. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at www.laurelsnyder.com.
Visit other stops on the Blog Tour...
September 4 Open Book Reviews
September 5 Teachers Who Read
September 6 Nerdy Book Club
September 9 Read Wonder
September 10 About to Mock
September 11 Novel Novice
September 12 Create Explore Read
September 13 Book Monsters
September 16 Maria's Melange
September 17 Writer's Rumpus
September 18 Bluestocking Thinking
September 19 Storymamas
September 20 Amber Kuehler
I was given an advance copy of this book by the publisher, Walden Pond Press. The thoughts in this post are my own opinions.