Cover Image: Lily's Promise

Lily's Promise

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I didn’t like the tone that the writer used. It seemed condescending to kids’ intelligence. It had promise.
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Lily’s Promise kept me smiling hours after I finished reading it. Lily, who was homeschooled by her father until he passed away, is quite anxious about starting public school for the first time as a middle schooler. Her father made her promise to “Strive for Five” to overcome her anxiety and speak out. She’s given ample time to do that when she befriends students who are being bullied such as Hobart, who is obsessed with curling and smaller than most of his peers, and Dunya, a middle Eastern immigrant that speaks several languages. 
     Lily is intelligent, well spoken despite her shy nature, and has a strong moral compass to guide her. She gravitates toward the underdog and champions for them, who in turn, help her realize her own gifts. These new friendships also help both her and her mother heal from her father’s death as they open their hearts to her new friends. 
      I enjoyed all the cultural threads woven through the book. Lily’s mom is an immigration lawyer and Hobart’s father is unhappy his neighborhood is being “taken over.” Libro ( the actual book), interrupts every few chapters as the narrator to give the reader pause and help them digest and think about the conflict in the story. I appreciated the reflection, particularly for my middle school students. 
     This book is a beautiful example of looking at things from all sides and showing how people can change, particularly if they are educated about an issue. It reminded me of Ann Braden’s Flight of the Puffin and Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj with its message of the power of the written word and the ripple effect of kindness.
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At first I was a little unsure about libro in between each chapter. But it quickly became a source of humor and thoughtfulness. Lily's Promise is a beautiful story of friendship and finding your voice
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This was an amazing story that touches on so many important topics in ways that children can understand.  I loved Lily and her friends!  I loved her journey and the journeys of the other characters!  Most of all, I loved Libro the narrator.  I was loving this story right up until the last chapter and was ready to rate it 5/5 stars, however I absolutely hate stories that have poor endings and this story didn't really have an ending.  It just stops.  I understand what Erskine was going for with this ending, and some people may like it, but for me it ruined the whole experience.  So I would recommend this story to others with the warning that the ending is bad, but the other 99% of the story is good.
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A wonderful middle school book for those kids trying to figure out how to fit in.  Great supporting characters and I hope that this is a start to a series!
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As a teacher who is used Mockingbird, another book written by Katherine Erskine, in my classroom for over seven years, I was ecstatic to have the chance to review this book. Although the book’s target audience seems to be sixth grade or middle school, I feel that the book may be able to appeal to a fourth or fifth grade reader. The challenges of bullying and having to cope with new challenges are a common struggle for elementary and middle school children. In Mockingbird, Mrs. Erskine, impressed me with the way she was able to let a reader fall into a character and grow with them.  In this book, she does that again. She has given her reader several characters to follow as they face challenges head on and prevail by using the strengths of friendship and courage. This book can be used in an educational setting also. By having the book become a character in her novel, Mrs. Erskine accomplishes what teachers often do in the classroom. Libro, the book character, guides the children to see the important parts of the story that a teacher would point out during a read aloud. Libro, gives students a recap of the chapter, introduces a thought-provoking question or two, and sets the stage for the next chapter. I feel that this format is not unlike the one used to create educational television shows and good classroom lessons. By utilizing this format, the students have a teacher present within the book. This allows fluent readers the opportunity to “dig deep” within a book independently. Lastly, I love a good cliffhanger. Mrs. Erskine adds this element to make her readers a part of the story. She encourages her readers to create their own ending. She gives kids a challenge to imagine all the infinite possibilities that they can create to end the book and change their perceptions by applying the book’s message to their own lives. This book is an uplifting read for students struggling to adjust to personal challenges and adversities.
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My students just finished reading Kathryn Erskine's Mockingbird in our social issues book clubs, and I was sooo excited to read her latest book. She did not disappoint!

Lily's Promise is a beautiful story about a daughter grieving the loss of her father and trying to find a way forward.  Lily and her friends try to rise above actions of a school bully and his group, and Lily continually relies on the wisdom her father passed along before he passed on,  

There are so many things to love about this story, but I'm going to highlight two:
Erskine has used a really clever craft move.  She's alternated chapters told by an outside narrator with quick chapters/comment by the outside narrator - the book itself! - sharing its views on the story.  These quick glimpses into the mind of the book offer sweet focusing/reminders for readers about possible messages, characters to pay attention to, etc.  
Erskine also doesn't give us a neatly wrapped up ending.  At first, I was really bummed!  But the more I thought about it, the more I understood and appreciated that the book is not about the end, it's about the journey of the story.  

So grateful for Lily's journey.  Eager to put this book in students' hands.
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Lily has always been home schooled by her dad, but after his death, her mother is not able to keep up with educating her. Lily is painfully shy, and very apprehensive about attending public school. Her fears are well founded; the children are loud, and Ryan and his buddy Brady bully many of the students, included the bow tie wearing Hobart (whom he calls Ho-fart), who is extremely welcoming to Lily. He has a hard time in school as well, but with the help of cafeteria monitor Mr. Hammer, has a good attitude and throws himself enthusiastically into school. Her father had encouraged her to "Strive for Five": speak up, make herself heard, step out of her comfort zone at least five times, so that this becomes second nature. She tries to do this, but it's hard. It is also worthwhile; she makes friends with other students who are struggling to fit in. Javier is from El Salvador, Dunya was in a refugee camp and speaks three languages, and Skylar and his family have fallen on hard times. The students start a campaign to leave positive notes for other students, until the bullies ruin it, but are successful in working toward a culture of acceptance and positivity in their class and the school. Will Lily be able to make the goals her father set for her?
Strengths: It's easy to forget that public school is a microcosm of the larger world, and that it takes a set of skills to be successful with a wide variety of people. While Lily's father made sure that she socialized with other children, middle school, with its crowded hallways and occasional behavioral problems, can be a tough situation if one isn't used to it. Lily's transition is eased by Hobart, who is fairly oblivious to the difficulties of school, and she does make friends, even though this isn't easy. She is also helped by kind teachers, the awesome Mr. Hammer (and there are often characters like Mr. Hammer in middle school roles), and a pleasing array of well known middle grade novels! I liked that fact that she wore dresses because they were comfortable-- I feel the same way! Her mother is also reeling from the death of the father and isn't always meeting Lily's needs, she is going forward in a positive manner and encourages Lily to step outside her comfort zone as well. 
Weaknesses: I wasn't a fan of the chapters written from the book's ("Libro") perspective: these chapters just interpreted what had gone on in the story already and slowed me down from finding out what the characters were doing next, which I very much wanted to know. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for fans of books like Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt that take place in the classroom. There aren't a lot of books about homeschoolers reintegrating into public schools, and since it can be a rocky experience, it's good to see how Lily navigates the change.
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This book is such a sweet story. Lily has promised her dad that she will try to "Strive for Five" which means she will step out of her comfort zone and speak up in school. Being in a public school for the first time, after previously being homeschooled by her recently deceased father, provides a lot of opportunity for Lily to live up to her promise, but can she do it? New school, new classmates and teachers, finding somewhere to sit in the lunchroom...too many pressures! When the election for class president rolls around, maybe Lily will be brave enough to help a new friend run but that's her limit, right?!?

The best part of this story is the connections and dialogue between the characters. Each one feels real and the are all relatable; we've either known someone just like each or we might be one of the characters ourselves! That said, I would be remiss if I did not highlight one other favorite part of this book- in between each chapter, the book talks to you about the author, her writing process, the characters and storyline, and Libro (as these sections are called) just feels like a friend who's reading along with you. 

I highly recommend this wonderful story about friendship, family, and stepping out of your comfort zone! This one will leave you with a smile.
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Very cute story about a girl who makes a promise to her dad before he passes away. As she honors this promise she becomes more and more aware of her inner strength and slowly begins to chip away at her shy exterior. While most of the characters were loveable, yet stereotypical, or empathetic bullies my favorite part of the book was Libro, the self-aware book narrator who would break the fourth wall and interject snarky and humorous comments every so many chapters. I loved this insight and extra commentary on the characters that some of the readers may not pick up on themselves or need "adult" guidance understanding. A humorous and heartfelt read.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an e-ARC of this novel.

I really loved Mockingbird and had high hopes for this one. I really like Lily & Hobart, but I found myself frustrated by the interjections of The Book. I felt its contributions to the story were minimal and interrupted the flow of the story. I'd be turning the page hoping to find out what happened next, only to get color commentary from the book on what I'd already read.
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I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review. I really loved the book. Lily is such a normal kid with normal kid issues. Hobart is a delightful friend. Everyone should have a Hobart in their life. Dunya is wonderful and every bit the helper. But, my favorite character has to be Libro, a self-described snarky omniscient narrator who not only helps readers ask questions, process feelings but also see a peek of story crafting behind the scenes. I really hope to Libro show up in another book. Libro is great! I'm a middle school librarian and I will definitely share Lily's Promise with students.
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Lily's Promise is an engaging middle grade book that tackles several issues including bullying, grief, immigration, and friendships. Alternating chapters are narrated by Libro, the book itself, which breaks the fourth wall to address the reader. It's a fun, self-aware character who also refers to "The Imaginer," or author, and gives its opinions as to what is happening or about to happen.

Lily is attending public school for the first time. She has always been homeschooled by her father, until recently, when he passed away. She has never had close friends, and has difficulty speaking up. Before he died, her father asked her to "strive for five," meaning find five opportunities to speak up and speak out. Almost as soon as she arrives at school to begin sixth grade, Lily meets Hobart, a friendly kid who has endured more than his share of being the victim of Ryan, the class bully. As the school year progresses, Lily becomes friends with Hobart and others who appear at first to be outsiders in one way or another. Lily finds opportunities to use her voice to help those around her. The challenge is, can she do it?
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I really enjoyed this book. The narrator was funny and snarky. The characters were great and I loved the subjects being discussed!
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I would recommend this as a read aloud for the classroom. Lily is coming to school after being homeschooling all of her life. She meets new friends but also sees what a bully is. This is a story about being more outgoing and becoming who you are meant to be. This is a wonderful book to learn lessons on remembering loved one and being more outgoing.
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Lily's Promise is a book much needed by the world now. The title character, Lily, promised her father before he passed away that she would speak up more. Despite the many changes in her life, Lily learns more than just the importance of speaking up. In Lily's Promise, Erskine addresses many important issues for middle grade readers- bullying, friendship, acceptance, self-advocacy and immigration. In a world full of disharmony, middle grade readers need these messages so they can change the world!  Erskine has also masterfully included the book as a character. "Libro" allows readers insight into the author's mind in a way we have not seen before. "Libro" will also allow teachers an avenue to address author's craft in a way that will captivate their students. Lily's Promise is a must have in any middle grade classroom library!
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REVIEW:  LILY’S PROMISE BY KATHRYN ERSKINE



	Lily’s Promise is a great read on so many levels.  The book’s namesake, Lily, has just lost her beloved father to an illness that taxed family’s resources. She and her mother, an immigration lawyer, move to a smaller house in a different neighborhood. Lily had been home schooled, taught by her father.  Painfully shy, Lily now has to face multiple challenges: life without her father and starting public school for the first time where she knows no one.
	Fortunately, one of the first people Lily meets is Hobart, a quirky guy who manages to be in love with life despite having a difficult father who dislikes immigrants and being bullied at school by a boy named Ryan. Hobart is a kind soul who is sad about being tormented but doesn’t let it define him or crush his spirit. Lily and Hobart befriend Skylar, a boy whose family is going through rough times financially and Dunya, a girl whose family just escaped a terrible situation in the Middle East.
	This story is about integrity and human decency, but it is told in a way that is gently persuasive, not didactic or preachy. The author touches on many issues including the treatment of immigrants, the cost of healthcare, dirty pool in politics (at the middle school election level), how to handle bullying.
The plot is filled with conflicts galore and therefore is a page turner. Lily wants to honor her father’s memory by being assertive and taking small risks. Hobart is trying to figure out how to stand up to his both his father and Ryan. Ryan’s goal in life is to create misery. His victims include his teacher, Hobart, Lily, Skylar and Dunya. 
What makes this book brilliant is a clever literary device that Erskine employs which is making the Book a primary character in the book. Perhaps other authors have done this before, but I’ve never seen it. Between each chapter, Erskine inserts wry and pithy observations from the Book. Never more than a paragraph or two, these comments are hysterical, analyzing various literary elements in the story like character, plot. By discussing these elements, the Book exposes a young reader to the process of how a story is created and a way to assess how that process is working. In some ways, the Book is training children how to be good literary critics. 
The Book refers to the author as the Imaginer and critiques her writing habits and inclinations. I love the relationship between the two, lots of affection with just the right amount of tension. Also, readers always love to hear personal facts about an author and in this case, the Book is happy to oblige. The voice of the Book is endearing; I especially love the addition of the British accent—a very nice touch.
Lily’s Promise contains many weighty themes. Comments from the Book add needed levity to the prose. The sections are tightly integrated with the content of each chapter, so they serve to move the plot along. 
Lily’s Promise is a book about empathy. Everyone has a backstory. Each backstory contributes to a character’s behavior. Erskine’s strength is that she does not paint in black and white. She allows for her characters to grow and change, even the villains. Her characters choose to embrace, to extend grace and forgiveness. I can see this beautiful book leading to many fruitful discussions in homes and classrooms.
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I found the characters rather flat and underdeveloped. The gimmick of the book talking directly to the reader was clever, and could be useful for literacy circles, but otherwise, I wasn't impressed.
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Lily, a shy 11 year old girl, is beginning public school after losing her father, who was also her teacher.  Before her dad died Lily promised him that she would find her voice and use it.   By finding her tribe at school, Lily grows into her voice.  The chapters from Libro were a great addition to the book, and I loved thinking about the author through Libro's chapters.
I can't wait to read this to my studnets.   The issues are real and relatable and my fourth graders will love it!
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What an incredible book!! I love the interjected notes from Libro- perfect way to “whisper” some wisdom to the reader. Love how it ends! A beautiful story of finding your team, finding your voice, and making your choice.
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