The day D Foster enters Neeka and her best friend's lives, the world opens up for them. D comes from a world vastly different from their safe Queens neighborhood, and through her, the girls see another side of life that includes loss, foster families and an amount of freedom that makes the girls envious. Although all of them are crazy about Tupac Shakur's rap music, D is the one who truly understands the place where he's coming from, and through knowing D, Tupac's lyrics become more personal for all of them.
The girls are thirteen when D's mom swoops in to reclaim D, and as magically as she appeared, she now disappears from their lives. Tupac is gone, too, after another shooting; this time fatal. As the narrator looks back, she sees lives suspended in time, and realizes that even all-too-brief connections can touch deeply.
It's amazing how beautiful a novel can be where not much happens. This was a reading experience that merely involved sitting with a group of really loveable characters who, if you knew personally, would just want to hang out with all day long - which is basically all they were doing in the entire book - hanging out, that is. They contemplated life's trials and tribulations in bedrooms, on porch steps and the city bus.
Jacqueline Woodson has done a service to children's literature by writing a contemporary story of African American children rather than a historical one. So often the stories in children's literature that are written about African Americans are historical fiction, which are no less important, but what is conspicuously lacking in the canon of children's literature are books that include contemporary African American children as the main characters.
This slim book packs some power in its few pages and is certainly worthy of its Newbery honor.
A note on the audio production: Susan Spain is the narrator for this lovely little audiobook and she does an amazing job at setting the mood of the story. She's one of those narrators who enhances the enjoyment of the story and makes for a listening experience that is more enjoyable than if you had read the book yourself.
After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
Published: January 2008 by Putnam Juvenille
Audiobook Published: July 2009 by Brilliance Audio
Audiobook Narrator: Susan Spain
Audiobook length: 3 hours, 11 minutes
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade