Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd) is a delightful book that deals with a common family issue in a realistic and important way.
For any child who has ever been in the middle of parents who are divorcing, it can be a scary and trying time. There are so many questions, and kids can often be left wondering if it is their fault, or whether or not the parents are going to get back together and fix the family. The children who are dealing with their parents separating might be broken, while the friends of those children might find themselves wondering “what if that happens to me?” It can be a lonely time for the children of parents who are splitting up, but it doesn’t have to be – and Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd) offers a main character who is both hurting and in denial about her parents divorcing, all while trying to keep the rest of her life together, too.
“When your parents decide to get a divorce, someone has to leave.”
Wren Jo Byrd doesn’t understand why her parents are splitting up. After all, her family has always been great together! At nine years old, Wren has some of the best memories with both of her parents – why on Earth would she want them to split up and live in different places?
But Wren’s parents are sure, and come to the decision that they are no longer going to stay together, leaving Wren’s dad to move out across the lake into a cabin, which he is also fixing up, and Wren is sent to spend the summer with her grandparents, instead of hanging out with her best friend Amber and enjoying swimming and all kinds of other fun things that summer brings.
When Wren comes back from her grandparents’ home, she is still heartbroken to see that her life really is changing – the schedule on the fridge is a constant, nagging reminder of how different her life is going to be. Monday through Thursday Wren is to meet her mother at the library where she works, while on Friday afternoons she takes the bus to her father’s cabin for the weekends.
Since Wren was too scared to text Amber or her other friends all summer long, fearing what she and others would think if they found out that Wren’s parents were divorcing, she stayed silent and didn’t talk to anyone – leaving Amber to find a new best friend. The new girl, who is at first rude to Wren and brags about how wonderful her life is, has taken Wren’s place as Amber’s best friend, and Wren is heartbroken about this, too.
But over time, Wren and the new girl spend more and more time together, getting to know one another and picking up on each other’s secrets – maybe this new girl has something to hide, as well? Maybe Wren can find a friend where she wasn’t sure she would, and maybe she will be able to come to terms with her parents getting a divorce.
This book was charming and had a really sweet main character who was simply trying to navigate a world that was breaking apart right in front of her – from her family to her best friends, leaving her unsure as to where she belongs. While Wren tries her hardest to keep her parents’ impending divorce a secret, she finds herself telling one small lie after another, stressing herself out, and fighting to keep a friend who doesn’t understand that everything in her life is different now.
I loved Wren – she was so honest and inquisitive, often looking up words in the dictionary until she truly understood what was what (after plenty of encouragement from her mother, who works as a head librarian at the town’s library). Wren tries to keep it all together, but sometimes it’s just too hard for her, and she can’t keep it in anymore. After all – how is a nine year old supposed to handle everything in her life changing, and not for the better?
The chapters in the book are titled with questions that Wren finds herself asking in the book – sometimes goofy, and sometimes questions that will tug at your heartstrings and make you feel everything that Wren feels.
The author did a great job channeling a nine year old girl, and she is definitely a character that young children, middle graders, and even adults can find themselves relating to. She’s funny and she’s sweet, and she has an adorable pet cat named Shakespeare that I thought was such a great touch for this book. With focuses on family and friendship, this is definitely a great middle grade read!