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Book of the Month: If You Come Softly

By Jacqueline Woodson

Recommended grades 10+ (some mature themes)

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson stands as a celebrated work of literature, having earned both the prestigious Coretta Scott King Award in 2001 and the esteemed Los Angeles Times Book Prize. These awards speak volumes of the novel's profound impact and exceptional quality. Woodson deftly explores themes of love, race, and identity, captivating readers with her lyrical prose and deeply empathetic characters. 

Set against the backdrop of New York City, this novel follows the romance between Ellie, a white, Jewish student from a privileged background, and Jeremiah, a Black student who attends their elite private school on scholarship. Woodson's prose is lyrical and evocative, immersing readers in the intimate thoughts and emotions of her characters as they navigate the challenges of their interracial relationship. Through Ellie and Jeremiah's perspectives, Woodson sheds light on the pervasive racial prejudices and systemic injustices that continue to shape our world, while also offering a message of hope and resilience in the face of adversity. Despite coming from vastly different backgrounds, they are drawn to each other with a magnetic intensity that transcends societal expectations and norms. Woodson delicately captures the tender moments of their courtship, from their initial hesitant glances to the profound connection they share as they confide in each other their deepest hopes and fears. Their love is portrayed as a beacon of light in a world filled with darkness, offering a sense of solace and belonging amidst the chaos and uncertainty.

If You Come Softly is a timeless masterpiece that speaks to the universal truths of love, race, and identity. Jacqueline Woodson's lyrical prose and keen insight into the human condition make this novel a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the complexities of the world we live in. High school readers will connect with the expertly developed characters , while expanding their understanding of the novel's themes of love, race, and identity. Through the eyes of Ellie and Jeremiah, we are reminded of the transformative power of love and the enduring strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

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