Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, The In-Between: A Memoir in Verse by Katie Van Heidrich!

It's time for a book birthday! 

Today's read is a memoir written in verse, and I'm excited to dive in. I'm not normally a huge autobiography fan, but this one promises to stay interesting...in other words, I do think the topic is worth visiting. Since it's written in verse, it promises to dig deep and be an emotional read, too. Let's just take a peek and find out if it's worth picking up.

A Memoir in Verse
by Katie Van Heidrich
Middle Grade Autobiography / Memoir
304 pages
ages 9 and up

For fans of Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle and Life in Motion by Misty Copeland, this middle grade memoir in verse chronicles a young girl and her family who must start over after losing their home.

In the early 2000s, thirteen-year-old Katie Van Heidrich has moved more times that she can count, for as long as she can remember. There were the slow moves where you see the whole thing coming. There were the fast ones where you grab what you can in seconds. When Katie and her family come back from an out-of-town funeral, they discover their landlord has unceremoniously evicted them, forcing them to pack lightly and move quickly.

They make their way to an Extended Stay America Motel, with Katie’s mother promising it’s temporary. Within the four walls of their new home, Katie and her siblings, Josh and Haley, try to live a normal life—all while wondering if things would be easier living with their father. Lyrical and forthcoming, Katie navigates the complexities that come with living in-between: in between homes, parents, and childhood and young adulthood, all while remaining hopeful for the future.

GOODREADS   /     B&N    /   AMAZON


Written in lovely, open prose, this is a potent glimpse into the life of a girl, who's trying to find ground on an every-shifting base.

Katie's family returns from a several day trip to a funeral only to find themselves without a home. In a scramble to have a roof over their head, they move into a hotel, where the mother searches for a new job, while the kids attend school. Katie is determine not to have any of her friends or classmates discover her situation, which considering other school drama, isn't easy for her to handle. Then, she also is trying to mentally balance their situation with that of her father, who is remarried and lives in a large house with rooms to spare. 

The author has masterfully used verse and literary devices to create a beautiful read. The reader sinks into Katie's thoughts, concerns, and view of her world as she steers the difficult situation of living without a solid home. The fears, insecurities, and confusion are understandable and no problem to sympathize with. And all of this reveals a situation not often mentioned in literature for younger audiences, but more often a reality than most people want to admit. 

The writing was well done, and I am considering using it in my own homeschooling curriculum (especially for literary devices and analysis), albeit for high school rather than middle grade. While the upper end of the middle grade audience will be able to identify with Katie, I wonder if tweens and teens might be a better fit with the imagery and depth. It dives deep into emotions and takes a peek at the world only through Katie's view and thoughts, which also means (out of necessity) that the other characters are left superficial. Also, for more impatient readers (which I've always tended to be), the sea of thought creates a slower pacing. 

It's a well-crafted memoir with an interesting glimpse into a lesser visited situation. For those who enjoy emotions, beautiful prose, and depth, it's worth picking up.

And here she is...

An Atlanta native, Katie Van Heidrich graduated from Brown University with a BA in Africana studies and religious studies. Upon graduation, she taught fifth grade reading and social studies at a charter school in Charlotte, North Carolina, through Teach for America. Katie relocated to San Francisco, California, in 2015 and continued to teach and coach middle school social studies. Working with underserved children from diverse backgrounds, she is tasked with empowering students to reimagine the world we live in while affirming their place in it. In her daily teaching, Katie aims to help children realize their abilities to advance change. In her free time, Katie is an avid reader and self-proclaimed picture book enthusiast. She and her husband are the parents of two young sons.

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