I love the idea that everyone has stories, at least one, inside of them. With that on the brain I also look to the quote “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it” by the late and great Toni Morrison. Author Leslie C. Youngblood has traveled a long journey, one more than fifteen years long, to land her two-book deal with Disney Hyperion and tell this particular story — Love Like Sky. It is about little girls in a blended family learning how to redefine familial connections and knowing there is love big enough for all.
“Well, that’s the kind of love that Daddy and Mama got for us. Peaches–love like sky.”
“It never ends?”
Meet Georgie and Peaches
Georgie aka G-baby is 11 years old and one thing she knows for certain is that she is her little sister’s favorite person in the whole wide world. Little sister Peaches, who is a happy six-year-old, loves how G-baby dances. She loves to hangout and sleep in G-baby’s room. Most of all she loves asking G-baby all the questions because she knows that her big sister will have all the answers and she won’t treat her like a baby. Peaches clings to G-baby — the two sisters are still in an adjustment period. Their parents are divorced and the two girls are part of a new family: their new stepfather Frank adores their mother and their new older stepsister Tangie avoids the girls like they have the plague. Tangie is made of cool, teenage, older sister material which has been the only exciting part of this new chapter of their lives. Yet she wants nothing to do with Peaches or G-baby.
G-baby sorely misses her old neighborhood, her old school, her old friends and more importantly having her father at home, even though she recognizes that her mother and father are better off with different people. She ponders the relationship with her father, no longer living with them and married to someone else who isn’t their mama while managing her baby sister’s sadness and queries of whether he still loves them. The beginning of Love Like Sky is one that pours out a bit slow, like molasses, and takes its time getting us there. When the Inciting Incident finally happens, it makes for a heartwarming tale that captures a family coming together in a crisis and a little Black girl figuring out how love, in many different forms, can work together to save the day.
Themes for Young and Old
When it comes to covering a bevy of different heavy topics and themes, this book is meat and potatoes for sure! G-baby is awkwardly finding her way and growing up. While she’s set on being the best big sister she can be, she has moments of vulnerability, of tears, of not knowing what to do next and most certainly moments when she needs comfort and a friend. With her circle of friends, especially her best friend Nikki, she learns that things in the old neighborhood are changing. It’s a pull and tug for them as besties since the crib as they are changing into different people — an uncomfortable and scary experience when you can’t recognize who your best friend has become. There’s a thread in the book acknowledging bigger issues that impact other kids like the teen-aged step sister Tangie. The book opens up about police brutality that happens to folks who look like you, not knowing where to insert yourself when it comes to protests and ways of resistance, and keeping big secrets from parents.
It is not uncommon for children in real life and in fiction, to have little to no agency yet in Love Like Sky, they push back and make solutions by working together and thinking out of the box with and without adults. G-baby learns a valuable lesson in not sitting back and being bullied and being a follower and tactfully works to stand up not just for herself but for those who can’t quite do so for themselves. She also matures a little by summer’s end with another valuable lesson that not everyone has a full family of stable adults and has the support system she has. Some kids lose a bit of their childhood and have to grow up a little bit faster due to disheartening family circumstances. Regardless, here the majority of the kids present are making plans, doing their best and choosing the narratives that they want to be present in to make the lives of everyone better.
The major action of the book is Peaches falling ill, seriously ill, and having to be hospitalized. The helplessness that is felt isn’t childlike and it is a major ripple that touches everyone. The childhood sickness is the catsylst for G-baby learning how to constantly redefine family as they’re all in the crisis together. I can’t remember reading too many kid books growing up with a child character who was really sick yet this is realistic and valid representation of a illness that does effect the little ones and what it looks like for those in the hospital and those who come home. It’s a great way to touch upon how there are circumstances that affect us, our loved ones and all of our bodies that are sometimes such that none of us have full control.
Love Like Sky and Blackness
There is an distinctive feel of Blackness to this book. There are scenes about Black hair: rollers in Mama’s head, beads, little afro puffs and taking down braids. There’s a party with a throwback era theme with clothes and hairstyles only Black folks could pull off with such flair, grace and style. There’s the looks Mamas give when her child needs to hush up and the comfort that Black mamas give to each other in kitchens when things are bad. There’s a grandmama with an endearing nickname who loves so hard along with that Black cool that the Daddies wear on them that make even the dad jokes land differently. Peaches and G-baby within the first five pages are explicitly described with double fudge-dipped colored skin like their daddy and dark brown eyes and dime-sized dimples like their Mama. There’s a moment of confusion when the younger folks are told by grownups that Foxy Brown isn’t just a rapper (LOL). Later there is mention of hoodies and young Trayvon Martin tragically taken from us so young. You will know that a Black woman wrote this book.
I don’t recommend Love Like Sky if you don’t want to feel because if you read this one, you will be in your feelings! What I first perceived as family drama grew into scenes from my own memories regarding compromise and egos. The characters in this book started looking like people from my own life with different faces and names. Youngblood handles the highs and lows with a familiarity and grace, ultimately tying it all together well. Love Like Sky speaks to me because I am from a blended family, I am a child of of divorced parents. It also speaks to me as I once was a little Black girl trying to make sense of it all with a new parent, new siblings and a lot of misunderstandings between us. Youngblood has succeeded in making me fall in love with G-baby’s world and all the growth and trials endured for brightness and tenderness for new beginnings at the end.
This is a book for the middle school reader scene, yet it is also very much a book for older readers. It is a terrific coming of age tale of a Black girl that children of blended families will relate to. G-baby, a character who first showed up in Youngblood’s first published short story in 1990 and even made an appearance in her MFA thesis finally found her way to her own, fleshed out story that is one to be read, loved, shared and treasured while we wait for the second book. Forever this Summer is coming from Disney-Hyperion Books next year!
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“ You mean I can’t see her before I leave? She’s going to stay here… By herself?” The hospital seems to grow two 100 times its size. “She don’t even like to sleep in her own room by herself. I gotta tell ‘em!” • • Thanks to Disney Hyperion for sending us this book about blended families and growing up! This book is about 11-year-old Georgie who is still adjusting to leaving Atlanta for small town and having a stepfather and also being unable to get close to her stepsister when her younger six-year-old sister Peaches suddenly gets very sick. Like stuck in the hospital sick. • • This is a debut novel by @lescyoungblood with a beautiful cover by @vashtiharrison !!! We love stories about girls and especially little black girls I will never get over seeing little black girls on the covers of books!!! ???? Review on the site coming soon! #Bnplit #lovelikesky #lesliecyoungblood #kidlit #middleschoolgradebooks #disneyhyperion
Leslie C. Youngblood was Born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and raised in Rochester, New York. According to her website: “She’s fortunate to have a family of natural storytellers and a circle of supportive and family and friends”. See more of her on her website , Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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