cover image Finding Family

Finding Family

Tonya Bolden, Bloomsbury, $15.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-59990-318-7

Bolden's (FDR's Alphabet Soup) historical novel about family roots revolves around a series of collected photographs from the 1900s. Raised in Charleston, W.Va., by her withdrawn grandfather and prudent Aunt Tilley, both liberated slaves, 12-year-old Delana finds her family history to be a mystery. And when Aunt Tilley dies suddenly, Delana struggles more than ever to grasp onto an identity. After her cousin Ambertine (a wild woman, traveler, and pawnbroker) shows up, revealing surprising information about Delana's parents, Delana begins to distrust everything she has been told. As Delana imagines herself in the photographs and collects insights from family members—many of whom speak in expressive Southern dialect—she begins to understand the role that imagination and personal prejudice can play in coloring the past ("Was this how it started with Aunt Tilley? When she couldn't remember or didn't know or didn't like a truth, she just made things up?"). In the end, Delana learns to disregard Aunt Tilley's cautionary "Book of Bewares," and to embrace her own life. While the overlapping histories can be hard to follow, the visual relics function as poignant patchwork pieces in Delana's self-discovery. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)