Sincerely, Harriet

by Sarah Winifred Searle (Author) Sarah Winifred Searle (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
In 1996 Chicago, thirteen-year-old Harriet Flores, living with boredom, loneliness, and a chronic illness, lets her imagination run wild--with mixed results--and learns about the power of storytelling.

Harriet Flores struggles with boredom and an unrequited crush while learning to manage her chronic illness through a long, hot, 1990s summer in Chicago. She uses her imagination to cope, which sometimes gets her into trouble, as she makes up fantastical fibs and wonders if there are ghosts upstairs. One neighbor, Pearl, encourages Harriet to read and write, leading Harriet to have a breakthrough and discover the power of storytelling

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Searle tackles Harry’s anxiety about her illness as well as common adolescent concerns about friendships, school, and family with an honesty and tenderness that will resonate with readers. Harriet’s biracial: Her mother is white while her father is Mexican; Pearl is black. Heartfelt and heartwarming, highlighting the power of story to both conceal and reveal. 

Copyright 2019 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 4-8--Harriet Flores is lonely. Her camp friends won't return her postcards, her parents work all day, and she's stuck all summer inside her family's new apartment with the TV on and school books she'd rather ignore. Harriet's parents send her to help their elderly downstairs neighbor Pearl, who sets Harriet to working on a scrapbook for Pearl's grandson. Through conversations with Pearl, a new diary, and revelations about her building's mysterious third floor and by being honest with herself and with her parents, Harriet learns to wield her creative powers against loneliness and unease. Bored and fussy, she entertains unfounded suspicions that the mailman and Pearl are harboring secret criminal intentions. Unfortunately, while she is reprimanded for making up these stories, that both targets of Harriet's suspicions have dark skin goes unaddressed. Readers who stick by Harriet discover the source of much of her anxieties: a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. An author's note and suggested further reading further highlight invisible disabilities, a topic infrequently depicted in literature. Little details make the book more inclusive from a gender and sexuality standpoint: Harriet nurses fleeting crushes on other girls, and a scrapbook photo depicts her father rocking pink hair and a crop top. The wide-eyed, expressive characters and reassuring art are well suited to this introspective narrative. VERDICT A secondary purchase for collections where contemplative graphic novels are popular.-Darla Salva Cruz, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

In her middle grade debut, comics creator Searle slowly unspools the story of a middle schooler living with multiple sclerosis. Harriet ("Harry") Flores, 13, is a solitary girl whose family has just moved to Chicago. While her parents work, she spends long summer days alone in a hot row house apartment, wondering about a possible upstairs haunting, penning chipper postcards to former friends, and venturing only as far as the mailbox and downstairs to visit her grandmotherly landlady, Pearl. The dialogue conceals her innermost thoughts, but hints surface when Harry learns about Pearl's son Nicholas, who suffered from polio as a child and experienced isolation similar to her own. After Pearl shares the books Nicholas read while in quarantine (Harry cannot abide The Secret Garden but devours Peter and Wendy), she confesses her fears--about friendlessness and being sick--in letters to an imagined Nicholas. In jewel-toned art, Searle successfully creates a claustrophobic, lonesome ambience. An author's note discusses invisible disabilities and chronic illness, and offers resources for further reading. Ages 9-14. (May)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Heartfelt and heartwarming, highlighting the power of story to both conceal and reveal."—starred, Kirkus Reviews

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
May 20, 2019

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