Jacqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

Jacqueline Woodson's first middle-grade novel since National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming celebrates the healing that can occur when a group of students share their stories.


It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat--by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for "A Room to Talk"), they discover it's safe to talk about what's bothering them--everything from Esteban's father's deportation and Haley's father's incarceration to Amari's fears of racial profiling and Ashton's adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.

Cast of Narrators:
N’Jameh Camara, as Haley
Jose Carrera, as Tiago
Dean Flanagan, as Ashton
Angel Romero, as Esteban

Toshi Widoff-Woodson, as Holly
Mikelle Wright-Matos, as Amari
and also featuring the author, Jacqueline Woodson, as Ms. Laverne
* “Woodson celebrates all that is essential and good for humanity—compassion, understanding, security, and freedom—in this touching novel. . . . Woodson’s skills as poet and master storyteller shine brightly here as she economically uses language to express emotion and delve into the hearts of her characters. Showing how America’s political and social issues affect children on a daily basis, this novel will leave an indelible mark on readers’ minds.”Publishers Weekly, starred review

* “Woodson delivers a powerful tale of community and mutual growth. The bond they develop is palpable. . . . The characters ring true as they discuss issues both personal and global. This story, told with exquisite language and clarity of narrative, is both heartbreaking and hopeful. An extraordinary and timely piece of writing.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “The magic is in the writing. Woodson tells stories torn from headlines but personalizes them with poetry and memories, blunting their trauma with understanding and love. Haley’s history weaves in and out, drawing readers close. These children become each other's safe harbors and Woodson brilliantly shows readers how to find the connections we all need.”Booklist, starred review

* “Woodson’s spare, lyrical, and evocative prose carries the story seamlessly, weaving in themes of justice and family, friendship and courage. This is a timely and beautifully written story that should be on library shelves everywhere.”—School Library Journal, starred review

* "In her first middle-grade novel since her 2014 National Book Award winner, Brown Girl Dreaming, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jacqueline Woodson deftly alchemizes a sixth-grade classroom into an affecting metaphor for racial, political and socioeconomic challenges—enhanced by the transformative power of storytelling: ‘what matter[ed] most is that we were heard.’ . . . A powerful love letter to effective teachers, unexpected friendship and the healing magic of hearing, recording and sharing words.”—Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Explore[s] deep issues of identity, community, family, change, and forgiveness. The power of remembrance is also an important theme. . . . Will speak to young people’s insecurities and fears while recognizing their courage in facing them, and [Woodson's] craft as a weaver of words and imagery is evident on every page. A timely tribute to the resilience of young people and to the power of human connection that often overrides our differences.”—Horn Book

"Leaves readers of all ages asking, 'would I let myself be a harbor for someone who needs it?'”—School Library Connection