Sones, Sonya. 2001. WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW. New York: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing. ISBN 0689841140
Sophie is a typical teenage girl who is interested in boys, girlfriends, boys, and every so often, her bickering parents. This novel in verse gives us a glimpse into almost-fifteen year-old Sophie’s life as she deals with first, second, and third love, school, friends, and a mother who isn’t quite ready for her daughter to grow up. The poems easily flow one into another throughout the book as Sophie discovers what’s really important in life and love.
Award winning author Sonya Sones weaves the themes of friendship, teen love, and growing up into this fast paced novel in verse. Told from Sophie’s point of view, the poems tell the story of creative, bright, funny Sophie finding love, then losing love, then finding and losing it again, and finally finding it in the place she least suspected. Teen girls will easily relate to much of the angst Sophie feels throughout the book, and which Sones so aptly captures “It’s not like I’m boy crazy. / It’s just that even though / I’m almost fifteen / it’s like / my mind / and my body / and my heart / just don’t seem to be able to agree / on anything.”
The rhythm of this novel in verse will especially resonate with reluctant readers, but teen girls of all ages will be drawn to the honest and insightful descriptions of growing up. When Sophie finds love the third time with the boy who seems to be just-right, Sones shares her delight in the perfect language of Winter Kiss, our cheeks / burning with the cold / the tips of our noses / numb / our icicled lips / bump clumsily / then suddenly / melt together / warming us better / than any cup of steaming cocoa every could.
Readers will have fun discovering the author’s bonus of a mini flip-book toward the end of the book, where she draws the characters from the Impressionist painting, Le Bal a Bougival, moving closer and closer to a kiss, just like Sophie and her true love.
KIRKUS REVIEWS starred review: “A verse experience that will leave readers sighing with recognition and satisfaction.”
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL starred review: “Sones’s book makes these often-difficult years a little more livable by making them real, normal, and OK.”
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- Encourage students to publish their poems in the school newspaper or literary magazine.
- Explore the various types of poetry, including narrative verse, and have students write their own poem in each style.
- Work in collaboration with the school librarian and other English teachers to host an open mic event in the library during National Poetry Month. Invite students to read a favorite poem or an original one. Work with the drama department to create a simple stage with twinkle lights, a fabric or poster paper backdrop and a microphone. Serve snacks, and have students snap their fingers in appreciation at the end of each poem shared.
- Have students create a writing journal during a poetry unit and designate time to write original poems each day. At the end of the unit, students choose one poem to edit and publish. Encourage students to read their poem aloud to a small group or the class.
- Explore other books by Sonya Sones including What my Girlfriend Doesn’t Know; and Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy.
Image from Barnes & Noble