I am an elementary school librarian, so one of my extra duties is to supervise a bus room at the end of the day. When the children are dismissed they go to their assigned bus room to wait for their buses to be called over the intercom, or to after school care in the gym, or to the car pool room to be picked up by the line of cars in the parking lot. I have the joy of going to the fifth grade classroom to wait with a bunch of rambunctious boys whose bus is always late. I usually have about 20 minutes to ignore them wrestling and throwing pillows from the reading corner at each other, so I read the books the fifth grade teacher has so invitingly left out on display. I put a tiny piece of sticky note on the page I have to stop on each day, as a secret bookmark. Sometimes I have trouble stopping, and once or twice the classroom teacher caught me still reading when she came back from her bus duty. She just laughs and shakes her head at me.
This week I am reading So B. It by Sarah Weeks. I read it once before, last year, and I loved it then as much as I am loving it now. 12 year old Heidi has lived with her mentally challenged mother and agoraphobic neighbor all her life. She has no idea where she and her mother came from, if they have any other family, or how they ended up living in their apartment in Reno, Nevada, which has all its bills mysteriously paid without any visible means of support. She has only two clues: one of her mother’s words, soof; and a few pictures she discovers in the back of a sock drawer of someone who looks like her mother in a home in upstate New York. She decides to take a bus trip alone across country to try to discover the meaning of soof and find her history. She sets out alone, relying on her good luck and ability to “fly under the radar”, a skill taught to her by her neighbor Bernadette. Heidi tells her adventure story simply and sweetly, with genuine emotion and honesty. I feel as though I am on her journey with her, rooting for her and searching for family roots with all of my own twelve year old’s excitement, passion, fear, curiosity, and desire. This is a book I hate to come to the end of, and would love to read aloud to a fourth or fifth grade class.