Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: THE LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE by Rebecca Stead
Introduced by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Nadia Salomon
THE LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE is by Newbery Medalist, Rebecca Stead, who writes this story with heart and is very conversational. The main character, Bea, invites us into her world starting and ending with a metaphor about corn. The metaphor ties back to family bonds, forging relationships, and the realization that families can be created.
Bea tells us her family’s story of change through various memories, therapy, school situations, and through her LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE.
Bea received ‘The list’ from her parents after they announced getting a divorce. The first three things on the list:
1. Mom loves you more than anything, always.
2. Dad loves you more than anything, always.
3. Mom and Dad love each other, but in a different way.
As Bea’s life changes, and her LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE grows – we go along for the ride processing her emotions, guilt, anger, longing for a sibling, and trying to find her place in her new family structure.
Stead captures kid relatable emotions like:
Everyone who knows me agrees that I’m no good at hiding how I feel. Dad says I wear my heart on my sleeve, and that means when I’m sad or mad or happy, you can tell it just by looking at me. Sometimes the person looking at me knows how I feel even before I do. But then I catch up. (p 32)
As readers, we catch up with Bea and her growth trajectory through her feelings, going through therapy, developing a relationship with her future step-sister, Sonia, letters, Skype, and realizing we are all human, imperfect, and connect in ways we don’t always expect.
One of the most emotionally resonating moments in the book comes during Sonia’s visit. There’s a realization over compatibility and finding that connection doesn’t have to be direct or through words.
THE LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE covers so many themes from divorce, love, interpersonal relationships, coping with change, making choices and the consequences that follow, normalizing mental health, managing anger, bullying, friendship, defining family, homophobia, Bell’s palsy, and marriage. I appreciate how this book normalizes LGBTQ families and their struggles against homophobia. It also touches upon the impact of divorce for every person involved from both the adult and child perspective. Stead wrote this in an age-appropriate manner. It is spot on for kid relatability to time, truth, and learning to find oneself and accepting mistakes.
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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