What can children do about a situation that seems unfair or unjust? How can they be allies? These are two of the questions that Karina Yan Glaser explores in her new novel, A Duet for Home. Written for ages 8-12, the book follows eleven year old June and her family as they move into Huey House, a homeless shelter. Despite her misgivings, June finds a support network there that helps her and others rediscover hope and make plans for the future.
Running alongside themes of friendship and healing is the conviction that even those dependent on society’s help have a responsibility to stand up for what they believe in. Whether it’s Maybelle’s refusal to eat meat, a mother’s pursuit of stable employment, or the residents’ protest of government policies that threaten the stability of Huey House, A Duet for Home offers a variety of models for ethical action. Children can explore how to use their voice and agency to make a difference on issues they care about.
As you read the book together, here are a few spiritual aspects you might want to discuss:
- Maybelle is passionate about helping animals. Before her family moved into Huey House, she visited the animal shelter everyday. So when mice are caught in Huey House, she wants to release them. She offers a prayer for their safety saying, “Please, God, watch over these little mice and let them be happy here in their new home. They are so little and really need you to protect them.” Ask: What people or things do you think need protection? What do you hope for this person or thing? Using Maybelle’s prayer as a guide, invite children to write their own prayer or encouraging words for someone or something in need of help.
- Classical music has a powerful effect on Maybelle, June and Tyrell, who listen to it each day because it helps them feel calm and connected to themselves and others. Ask: What music calms you? What music connects you with yourself or others? Encourage children to set aside time daily to listen to this music when they feel anxious or disconnected.
- June, Jeremiah, and Tyrell see and hear things that trouble them about the future of Huey House. By steadily gathering information and brainstorming ideas, they move from feeling overwhelmed to advocating for change. Ask: What is an issue that you are concerned about? Help them gather information about that issue. Then brainstorm ideas for change, make a plan, and act together.
- When June and Tyrell find out that the mayor will be speaking about her homelessness plan, they plan a protest. Ms. G, Marcus, and Eugene attend because they want to be allies of the Huey House residents. Ask: What does it mean to be an ally? Who in your community might need allies? Then brainstorm together a list of ways you can show your allyship.