Have you ever done something because you were so mad or so scared and then after you did it, you kind of wished you hadn't done it? Like maybe you played a game of musical chairs at a birthday party and when the music stopped, it looked like there was no chair for you so you pulled the chair out from under your best friend and he fell on the floor?
Bea remembers that moment. She has an unlucky streak with birthday parties in general but that one does stand out as being one of her worst moments. Lucky for Bea, her best friend forgave her. His mother never did, but he did.
Bea is ten years old and in the fifth grade. She has had a few bumps in the road getting to this wise old age. When she was eight, her mother and father called her in for a meeting and she found out they were getting a divorce. Bea also learned that her dad is gay.
The divorce changes Bea's life. She goes home to two different houses depending on which day it is. She finds out she is getting a sister. She goes to therapy to talk about how it's going.
So, how do you navigate life when the things you know to be true go and change on you?
Some stories have giants in them. Some stories have car chases. This story has the ups and downs of Bea's life and they might seem a little bit smaller and a little bit quieter than those other wild adventures. But most of us know that the ups and downs of our own lives seem huge to us. Sometimes we hold feelings inside that don't seem to fit us. Sometimes we can't figure a way out of a situation and we do the wrong thing. This whole navigating thing can get pretty complicated.
One way Bea has found to make sense of her life is writing a list of everything in her life that would not change because change can be really scary and hard... just as scary as a ghost story only it's really happening to you. You need to know some things won't ever change. You need to have some things to hold on to.
This story gently invites us into the life and the ups and downs of a ten year old girl who is dealing with some big issues. As you read how Bea feels and what she thinks, you can really understand how it feels to walk in her shoes.
Rebecca Stead must be a world class people watcher. She must remember so many of the little moments that make up a day - a good day and a bad day. She must have a deep understanding of being a human with all the feelings, the mistakes and the challenges that come along even if you are ten years old.
She writes about life with a precision that is remarkable. She writes as though she just might know what it's like to be us and she writes to reassure us we can figure it out and we are going to make mistakes but in the end we will be able to hold on to all the important things and people in our lives who will not change.
How lovely to have a friend like Rebecca Stead. How lucky to find someone who lets us know we aren't "the only one" and we aren't alone in this navigating business.
Deeply touching, warmly reassuring, willing to ask some tough questions, and exquisitely respectful of the complexity of life and the wonder of two gifts - forgiveness and love.
Recommended by: Barb. Langridge, abookandahug.com
Read alike: After the Worst Thing Happens by Audrey Vernick
Bea's family may change, but their love for each other does not in this soon-to-be classic by the Newbery Award-winning author of When You Reach Me
"Things are changing, Bea. But there's still a lot you can count on. Okay? Things that won't EVER change."
After her parents' divorce, Bea's life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.
When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she'll finally (finally!) have what she's always wanted--a sister. Even though she's never met Jesse's daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they'll be "just like sisters anywhere."
As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy, and readers will discover why the New York Times called Rebecca Stead a "writer of great feeling."---from the publisher
224 pages 978-1101938096 Ages 8-12
Keywords: change, divorce, gay and lesbian, family, love, LGBTQ, gay marriage, friendship, forgiveness, anxiety, worrying, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old, therapy, acceptance, accepting others
“There will come a time when everybody
Who is lonely will be free
To sing and dance and love”
-- Frank Zappa (1968)
Ten-year-old Bea is a challenged speller. And she suffers from eczema. But her father is one heck of a chef.
Two years ago, when she was in third grade, Bea’s parents told her that her dad was gay and that they were ending their marriage. The list of things that will not change began with mutual reassurances from her parents that she’d always have both parents available to her, even though there would be two households instead of one. Throughout the story, her parents remain friends and Bea goes back and forth between the two nearby households.
Now that she’s in fifth grade, Bea’s dad and his live-in partner, Jesse, are getting married. Bea has high hopes that Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, who is Bea’s age but lives across the country in California, will become like a real sister to her. This remains to be seen.
But Jesse’s sister Sheila is a grownup Bea can count on. It’s Sheila who eventually fills Bea in on some important family history:
“She said, ‘I’d have to start way back, a long time ago.’
Then she stopped, and I knew she was deciding how much to say. I waited.
‘Fifteen years ago, about a month before he was supposed to get married to Sonia’s mom, Jesse told us he was gay. He told all of us together at the kitchen table--me, our parents, and Mission. Jesse asked us for help.’
‘What kind of help?’
‘We all knew Elle--that’s Sonia’s mom--real well, because Jesse and Ellie were high-school sweethearts. In our town, high school sweethearts get married all the time. It’s not like New York City. Ellie felt like part of the family, and now Jesse was telling us he couldn’t marry her. It wasn’t fair, he said, to her or to him. But he needed to know we would still be there, after. He needed...I think he just needed us to say it. That we would still be there for him after he broke it off.’
Sheila closed her eyes. ‘You know what? I can still see us, sitting there. I’m looking at my mother’s kitchen right now.’
‘In your mind’s eye,’ I told her.
‘Exactly.’ She took a deep breath. ‘Our mother said, “Jess, this never happened. We never sat here tonight, and you never said those words. Do you understand?” And then she stood up from the table. After a second, our dad got up, and then Mission stood up, too. And all three of them walked out on him. I stayed up all night with Jesse. He cried, mostly. I did, too.’
‘But what did she mean? When she said it never happened? I don’t get it.’
‘It meant Jesse had to choose, Bea. He had to choose between himself and the people he loved.’
It hurt, hearing that. I was pretty sure nothing like this had ever happened to Dad.
‘So that’s why he didn’t call off the wedding? Or tell anyone else that he’s gay?’
Sheila said, ‘I told Jesse over and over--that I loved him, and that I would be there, no matter what. I told him that we could go talk to Ellie and her family together. But it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.’
We heard Mom’s keys in the door. Sheila leaned over and squeezed my fingers. ‘Some people would probably think it’s wrong for me to be telling you this, Bea. But you might as well know right now that there are people who will try to make you choose between who you are and who they want you to be. You have to watch out for those people.’”
Another adult on whom Bea can rely is her therapist, Miriam. Miriam is a talented professional and a pivotal character in the unfolding of the plot. Thanks to Bea’s sessions with Miriam, readers learn how probing surficial emotions often reveals some deeper emotions.
THE LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE is a moving contemporary tale that sheds light on some of the ways in which more-recent generations have it better than we Boomers. Rebecca Stead, author of one of my all-time favs, WHEN YOU REACH ME, has again written an unforgettable story.
And there’s nobody who’s better than Rebecca Stead at quietly crafting all those little details and then cuing up a jaw-dropping WOW! moment, where everything suddenly falls into place.
Seriously, wow! I sure wish I had had this book--and lived in Bea’s world--a half-century ago.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA