Fighting Words

  • Type: Books
  • By: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Age Category: Children
  • Genre: General Fiction
  • Recommended by: Sally M.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9781984815682
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Why would a 10-year-old get a tattoo?

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is one of my favorite writers of historical fiction, for children or adults. Her latest book, Fighting Words, is something of a departure. It’s a work of contemporary fiction for middle grade readers, and deals with the difficult and important topic of child sexual abuse. When the book opens, we meet Della, possessor of the above-mentioned tattoo. She’s strong, tough, and funny, and as she slowly tells her story we come to understand just how much she’s been through in her short life. She and her sister Suki have landed in foster care after a series of traumatic events. First their mother committed a crime and was incarcerated, and her boyfriend gave the girls a home. However, this man was giving the girls both not enough and too much attention (of the wrong kind), and they run away. Suki has always taken care of Della, but as the story unfolds we realize that the trauma Suki has experienced is much more extensive than anyone had guessed. It becomes clear that Suki is in desperate need of care and healing. 

This book deals with topics that are not easy, but it’s an important book, and ultimately, a hopeful one. In her author’s note, Bradley explains that she was sexually abused when she was a child. She wrote the book to help young people who have had similar experiences find the words to talk about it and seek much needed help. 

The tattoo? The book opens with Della trying to hide it from her teacher, and as a former fourth grade teacher, I’ll admit, it surprised me. In the end I understood the importance of the tattoo and why the caring adult in Della’s life allowed her to get it. You will too.