Something Happened in Our Park: Standing Together After Fun Violence
Ann Hazzard, Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins, Authors
Keith Henry Brown, Illustrator
Magination Press, Fictions, Apr. 27, 2021
Suitable for ages: 5-9
Themes: Gun violence, Shootings, Anxiety, Neighborhood parks, Community life, Family life, Social Justice
Opening: “Something bad happened in our park last night,” said Miles’ dad. “Keisha was shot in the leg, but she’s okay. She’ll be home from the hospital tomorrow.”
When his cousin Keisha is injured in an accidental shooting at a local park concert, Miles is frightened and begins to act out at school. He can’t concentrate. Instead he draws scary pictures, which his teacher sends home with a note to his parents. Miles tells his parents he wishes there were no guns and wants to move away. “If it happened to Keisha, it can happen to anyone.”
Keisha is in college and living with Miles and his family. A few weeks after Keisha returns home, she is watching Miles and his little brother, when they hear gunshots outside. Keisha freezes, but recovers and tells the boys they are safe inside. She suggests they draw a picture together.
With help from friends and family, Miles learns to use his imagination and creativity to help him cope with his fears. People from the neighborhood and college want to do something positive. With a strong community behind him, Miles realizes that people can work together to reduce the likelihood of violence in their community.
This important follow-up to the bestselling, groundbreaking and inspiring Something Happened in Our Town, by Celano and Hazzard, is a much-needed resource for communities and schools in the aftermath of gun violence.
Why I like this book:
This book empowers readers. It is beautifully written for the entire family, because it includes the thoughts, concerns and actions of children, teens, parents and community members. They all speak their minds. Miles is scared and wants to move. His parents empathize, but they also share their wonderful memories of their home and community. Keisha is recovering, but she wants to do something about guns in the community. The mayor and the community work together to address the causes of violence and launch a “Peace in the Streets” spring festival.
I especially like that the story shows how getting involved with neighbors to take action and create change helps the characters, like Miles, deal with fear and anxiety. In the end, Miles makes his own special contribution.
The book narrative and language is age-appropriate and encourages questions and thoughtful discussions. The illustrations are expressive, colorful and capture the tension and the strong community pride. I hope that Something Happened in Our Park receives a lot of book love because it is a powerful and relevant resource for classrooms and for families. The positive resolution empowers kids to turn fear into action and make a difference in their communities. Make sure your read the companion book, Something Happened in Our Town.
Resources: The book includes an extensive Reader’s Note with guidelines for discussing community gun violence with children. The book is an asset for parents and teachers to help kids express their feeling, develop coping strategies to increase safety and reduce anxiety. Sometimes the best medicine is getting together with others to create change. The authors also include sample responses to questions from children and conversation starter tips for parents.
Ann Hazzard, PhD., RBPP, Marianne Celano, PhD., ARBPP, and Marietta Collins, PhD, worked together for over two decades as Emory University School of Medicine faculty members, serving children and families in Atlanta. All three psychologists have been involved in community advocacy efforts focused on children’s behavioral health and social justice. Dr. Celano and Dr. Hazzard have developed and utilized therapeutic stories in individual and group therapy with children and teens. Dr. Collins is a faculty remember at Morehouse School of Medicine, providing psychological services to underserved adults, youth, and families.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Review copy provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.