“But Jenny, you should read Tanita Davis! Perhaps this new one, Peas and Carrots!”
“Oh, gosh, it seems like she has a sort of middle-grade aesthetic going on, and I tend to prefer older-skewing YA, so I’ll maybe give her a miss.”
“Jenny, no really, Tanita Davis, she’s right up your–”
“Shhhhh, I’m busy.”
FOOLISH FOOLISH FOOLISH JENNY. Have I not yet learned that I should listen to bloggers and their wisdom? Even if I have reservations? Peas and Carrots is about two girls, Hope and Dess, who become foster sisters without either of them particularly wanting to be. In alternating chapters, they tell the story of how Dess is folded into the Carter family.
Couple things. That are great about this book.
1. The foster care system has really, really serious flaws. The whole thing may need to be scrapped and started over at some point, that’s how serious I think the flaws in it are. At the same time, there are lots and lots of people trying to work within the system to make kids’ lives better. This second point can get lost sometimes in pop culture. Or always. It was refreshing to come across a book about a foster family who wanted, and worked for, only the best outcomes for their foster kids. PLUS, it’s one of very few books I’ve ever read that included child protection workers who weren’t evil.
2. Sister stuff. Neither Hope nor Dess was dreaming of having a new sister. Hope has enough going on in her life without adding a grumpy white racist teen sister into the mix, especially one who calls her fat and hopeless. Dess just wants to be with her baby brother again, even if he now calls Mrs. Carter Mama and barely remembers Dess. But they develop — what? Eh? What’s that you say? A grudging respect between sisters?
YES. THEY DEVELOP A GRUDGING RESPECT.
3. Appropriate boundaries! I love boundaries more than I love most people, places, and things. If ever you are wondering how to set a boundary, come talk to me. I am the Queen of Boundaries. Also great at setting boundaries is the foster family in Peas and Carrots. While the Carters are incredibly compassionate toward Dess, they also make their expectations clear, and they reiterate to her what kind of behavior (kindness first!) is valued in their family culture. A+ boundary-setting.
4. Nothing actually is resolved. Dess doesn’t get a permanency ruling. The sick baby doesn’t magically get healed. We don’t find out if Dess is in as much danger from her father and his gang as she believes she is. Peas and Carrots offers the possibility a better world to Dess, but it never promises her (or us) a perfect one.
Although (or because) the only stakes in Peas and Carrots are emotional ones, I couldn’t put this short book down. I sneakily read it on my lap when I was supposed to be selling books for work. Shhhh, don’t tell work.1 Now I will have to go out and read everything Tanita Davis has ever written.
What is your favorite book about BOUNDARIES, team?
- Work knows. I believe what I said to work was “I am finishing such a good middle-grade book, is that cool?” and they said “Sure, nobody’s even here to buy books yet! It’s so early!” ↩