If You Come Softly by Jacqueline WoodsonIf You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

If You Come Softly

byJacqueline Woodson

Paperback | January 7, 2010

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A lyrical story of star-crossed love perfect for readers of The Hate U Give, by National Ambassador for Children’s Literature Jacqueline Woodson

Jaqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Jeremiah feels good inside his own skin. That is, when he's in his own Brooklyn neighborhood. But now he's going to be attending a fancy prep school in Manhattan, and black teenage boys don't exactly fit in there. So it's a surprise when he meets Ellie the first week of school. In one frozen moment their eyes lock, and after that they know they fit together--even though she's Jewish and he's black. Their worlds are so different, but to them that's not what matters. Too bad the rest of the world has to get in their way. 
 
Jacqueline Woodson's work has been called “moving and resonant” (Wall Street Journal) and “gorgeous” (Vanity Fair). Now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, and including a new preface by the author, If You Come Softly is a powerful story of interracial love that leaves readers wondering "why" and "if only . . ."

Jacqueline Woodson (www.jacquelinewoodson.com) is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. She is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir BROWN GIRL DREAMING, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, the NAACP Image Award and the...
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Title:If You Come SoftlyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.4 inPublished:January 7, 2010Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0142415227

ISBN - 13:9780142415221

Appropriate for ages: 9 - 12

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Read from the Book

I couldn’t stop looking at him, at his smile and his hair. I had never seen locks up close. His were thick and black and spiraling down over his shoulders. I wanted to touch them, to touch his face. I wanted to hear him say his name again. For a moment we stared at each other, neither of us saying anything. There was something familiar about him, something I had seen before. I blinked, embarrassed suddenly, and turned away from him.Then Jeremiah rose and I rose.“Well . . . good-bye. I guess . . . I guess I’ll see you around,” he said softly, looking at me a moment longer before turning away and heading down the hall, his locks bouncing gently against his shoulders.“Jeremiah,” I whispered to myself as I walked away from him. I could feel his name, settling around me, as though I was walking in a mist of it, of him, of Jeremiah.

Bookclub Guide

ABOUT JACQUELINE WOODSONBorn on February 12th in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline Woodson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York and graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She now writes full-time and has recently received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Her other awards include a Newbery Honor, a Coretta Scott King award, 2 National Book Award finalists, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Although she spends most of her time writing, Woodson also enjoys reading the works of emerging writers and encouraging young people to write, spending time with her friends and her family, and sewing. Jacqueline Woodson currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.RELATED TITLESDancerby Lorri HewettStephanie works hard to pursue her dream of becoming a professional ballerina while coping with the pressures of her family expectations and those at her mostly white private school.Lives of Our Ownby Lorri HewettAfrican American Shawna and white schoolmate Kari defy the unspoken social standards of their small town as they work together to reveal a hidden community secret.Money Hungryby Sharon FlakeA period of homelessness and poverty has made Raspberry Hill determined to hoard as much cash as possible.Monsterby Walter Dean MyersAspiring filmmaker Steve Harmon copes with his arrest for murder by relating his story as if it were a movie script.145th Streetby Walter Dean MyersThe highs and lows of one Harlem neighborhood are explored in ten stories.Othello: A Novelby Julius LesterThis novelization of Shakespeare's classic play revisits the story of interracial love and tragedy.Tears of a Tigerby Sharon DraperAndy Jackson, feels responsible for the death of his good friend, Robert, in a drunk driving accident.Zackby William BellZack, the son of a African American mother and a Jewish father, experiences racial rejection for the first time when his family moves from Toronto to a small college town, and feels a need to connect with his family history.OTHER BOOKS BY JACQUELINE WOODSONLast Summer with MaizonReissue available Summer 2002HC: 0-399-23755-0PB:TKBetween Madison and PalmettoReissue available Fall 2002HC: 0-399-23757-7PB: TKMaizon at Blue HillReissue available Fall 2002HC: 0-399-23576-9PB: TKAN INTERVIEW WITH JACQUELINE WOODSONWhy do you write for young adults?I think it's an important age. My young adult years had the biggest impact on me of any period in my life and I remember so much about them. When I need to access the physical memories and/or emotional memories of that period in my life, it isn't such a struggle. And kids are great.The issue of identity is central to the three books under discussion, yet each seems to approach this topic differently. Was this a deliberate choice on your part? What does each of these stories say about the teen characters and their struggles to define themselves?Identity has always been an important and very relevant issue for me. For a lot of reasons, I've been 'assigned' many identities. From a very young age, I was being told what I was—black, female, slow, fast, a tomboy, stubborn—the list goes on and on. And this happens with many children as they are trying to become. So that by the time we're young adults, no wonder we're a mess!! There are so many ways we come to being who we are, so many ways in which we search for our true selves, so many varying circumstances around that search. No two people are alike but every young person is looking for definition. My journey as a writer has been to explore the many ways one gets to be who they are or who they are becoming.What drew you to the telling of the interracial love story in If You Come Softly? What aspects of this relationship did you want to illuminate for young readers?A story comes to me from so many angles. When I first started writing If You Come Softly, I thought I was writing a modern Romeo and Juliet. I kept asking myself "What would be different if Romeo and Juliet was being written today?" But when I was younger, I was also deeply affected by the death of Edmund Perry—an African-American boy who was attending prep school and while home on break, was shot by cops. After the death of Perry, I took notice everytime a young black man was shot by cops—which is too often—and later found innocent. I also knew as I was writing this book that I wanted to say "Love who you want. Life is too short to do otherwise." All of this and I'm sure a lot more was there at my desk with me as I sat down each day to work on this book.What do you do differently, if anything, when you tell a story from a male perspective?When I'm writing from a male perspective, I try to imagine myself as a boy and I really try to remember as much as I can about the guys I knew and know. It's very different than creating girl characters but I love the challenge of it.Although these are very different stories, they each reflect what can happen to African Americans when they are impacted by the criminal justice system. What do you want your readers to understand about this?I don't really know what I want readers to understand. I know what it helps me to understand—that the criminal justice system has historically not worked for African-Americans, that the percentage of people of color as compared to whites in jail, killed by cops, racially profiled and constantly singled out is unbalanced. I want the system to be different and the only way that it can change is if the way our society looks at race changes. And the only way that can happen is if people really start paying attention and making a decision to create change.DISCUSSION QUESTIONSDescribe Ellie's relationship with her mother and her father. How have her relationships been influenced by things that happened in the past. How is Ellie's life different from her older siblings? Ellie expected Anne to understand about Miah. Describe their relationship when they were younger. Why did Anne react the way she did? What change did this cause between Ellie and Anne? Why does Ellie fear her parents' reactions to Miah? How do Miah's famous parents impact his life? How does he handle the reactions of his peers when they learn about his father? What happens when Ellie learns about them? Should he have told her earlier? Why or why not? Miah is close to both of his parents. How have they tried to build his self- image? What characteristics does he get from each of them? How is he affected by their separation? How do teachers and students attempt to stereotype Miah? How does he handle these incidents? Ellie doesn't have any close girlfriends from her old school or at Percy Academy. What do you think a girlfriend would have said about her relationship with Miah? What advice would you have given Ellie and why? Miah has a friend Carlton who is mixed racially but considers himself African American. What issues do biracial and mixed racial people face? If You Come Softly deals with a classic theme of the challenge of loving someone outside of your own group. Name some other well-known couples that faced similar challenges. The story begins and ends nearly three years after Miah's death. What has happened in Ellie's life? How do you think she handled the tragedy?

Editorial Reviews

* "Once again, Woodson handles delicate, even explosive subject matter with exceptional clarity, surety and depth. In this contemporary story about an interracial romance, she seems to slip effortlessly into the skins of both her main characters. . . . Both voices convincingly describe the couple's love-at-first-sight meeting and the gradual building of their trust. The intensity of their emotions will make hearts flutter, then ache as evidence mounts that Ellie's and Jeremiah's 'perfect' love exists in a deeply flawed society. Even as Woodson's lyrical prose draws the audience into the tenderness of young love, her perceptive comments about race and racism will strike a chord with black readers and open the eyes of white readers."--Publishers Weekly, starred review"Woodson offers readers a poetically conceived novel of young love, permeated with complications of family dynamics, racism, and violence. . . . Woodson unerringly limns the delicate intensity and passionate innocence of first love. . . . The two points of view effectively communicate the loneliness of the two sensitive teenagers and their breathless delight in discovering one another. Characterization is solid and well-developed as both parents and frirends focus into reality through the eyes of Miah and Ellie. Their conversations ever so gently open up issues of racism, self-awareness, and moral consciousness."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books"Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. . . . A tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson's previous books."--Kirkus Reviews"Lyrical narrative. . . . This fine author once again shows her gift for penning a novel that will ring true with young adults as it makes subtle comments on social situations."--School Library Journal"As in all her fiction, Woodson confronts prejudice head-on."--Booklist "Gracefully told."--KLIATT