Keet knows the only good thing about moving away from her Alabama home is that she’ll live near her beloved grandfather. When Keet starts school, it’s even worse than she expected, as the kids tease her about her southern accent. Now Keet, who can “talk the whiskers off a catfish,” doesn’t want to open her mouth. Slowly, though, while fishing with her grandfather, she learns the art of listening. Gradually, she makes her first new friend. But just as she’s beginning to settle in, her grandfather has a stroke, and even though he’s still nearby, he suddenly feels ever-so-far-away. Keet is determined to reel him back to her by telling him stories; in the process she finds her voice and her grandfather again. This lyrical and deeply emotional novel-in-verse celebrates the power of story and of finding one’s individual voice.
In this affecting novel in verse, Keet has always had a lot to say, but since moving from Alabama to Illinois, her voice feels stifled. With a conspicuous accent and no friends, Keet finds happiness in her weekend fishing trips with her grandfather. In the poem "Why?," Keet questions the motivation for her family's relocation: "Better job,/ better pay,/ better school,/ away, away./ For Grandpa's sake. He's all alone./ For all the reasons parents drone,/ for all the reasons parents say,/ for bigger dreams, for better dreams,/ we moved away." Keet feels even more adrift after Grandpa has a stroke and retreats into depression. With the help of a new friend and her own passion for storytelling, Keet reconnects with her grandfather and finds her voice. Harrington (Busy-Busy Little Chick) makes thoughtful use of several types of poetry to tell Keet's story, including blues, catalog, concrete, narrative, contrapuntal, and prose poems (all discussed in a glossary). The poetry forms are well-chosen, their diverse rhythms and formats sensitively reflecting the fluctuating emotions of Keet's narration. Ages 8 12.