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Keeping the Night Watch

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  249 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
So many unanswered questions weigh down thirteen-year-old C.J. as he struggles to understand why his father walked out. His father is back now, though C.J. is not as quick to forgive as the other members of his family. He still feels the weight of responsibility that fell on his shoulders when Daddy was gone, and he's not prepared to give that up. But C.J.'s anger is makin ...more
Hardcover, 80 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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Feb 15, 2009 Toby rated it it was amazing
I find it interesting that all of the Coretta Scott King Author Honor books are poetry, a genre that some students find difficult, but also a genre that can express strong feelings in a few well-chosen words.
Keeping the Night Watch is a story told mostly in free verse about a family adjusting to the return of their father, who'd walked out on them but now is back. Poetry is the perfect vehicle for conveying the childrens' fears. 8 year old Zuri, for example, makes up a story about getting a do
Dec 16, 2008 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teen
At 13, CJ has gotten used to shouldering a lot of responsibility for his mother and little sister. Now his father has returned and CJ is just plain angry. How can his father returning feel even worse than when he was gone? CJ has to work through his complex emotions before he is willing to give his father another chance to be part of the family. Told through poems, this book reveals (as only poetry can) one boy's inner emotional landscape amid those of others in his family. Through her poetry, S ...more
Abby Johnson
Oct 19, 2008 Abby Johnson rated it liked it
The poems in this book tell the story of a family learning to trust again. CJ's dad left them, but now he's back and the family that once seemed to fit together so well is now having problems adjusting. CJ doesn't know if he can trust his dad to stick around this time. As the oldest child, CJ had to take on some responsibility when his dad left and he's not sure he's ready to give it up. I liked the poems, but I wonder about the format of the book. It's bigger than your typical novel and I worry ...more
Nov 07, 2008 Angie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Marcella
Recommended to Angie by: Karyn Millikan
An excellent book of poetry that tells a story of a young boy's struggle to rekindle the relationship of his estranged father who returns to the home. This book gives great understanding to the conflicting emotions that young people experience during the adolescent years and how they overcome with love and support from family and friends(even when they are the cause of the emotion). It is a must read!
Audience: This book is good for helping to teach how to cope with a family member leaving the family and in some situations coming back into their lives. The book is for older students 4th grade and up because it deals with tough situations.

Appeal: It’s a poetry book and has pictures that relate to the poems, and it’s an interesting story.

Coretta Scott King Book Award Recipient Author Honor 2009
Oct 15, 2016 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: teen-young-adult
3.5 stars. A compact, beautifully illustrated story-in-poems about a black teenager, C.J. (who narrates), whose father took off for a time but has now returned to the family. As the oldest of three, C.J. has the hardest time forgiving his father and trusting Daddy will stay no matter how firmly he promises. But as C.J. gets close to a girlfriend of his own, Daddy's perspective on relationships answers an unmet thirst.

This book follows a first, much-awarded volume called "The Way a Door Closes,"
Irene Carracher Kistler
Feb 08, 2014 Irene Carracher Kistler rated it it was amazing
KEEPING THE NIGHT WATCH is a collection of free verse poems by Hope Anita Smith. Through her poetic storytelling, we learn the about the story of C.J., an African-American teen who stepped into the father role when his dad temporarily abandoned their family. He became the man of the house, caring for his two younger siblings and staying strong for his momma and grandmomma. But what is his role once dad returns? And how does a son forgive a father for abandoning the family? These questions are be ...more
Jan 27, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing
Thirteen year old C.J. became the man of the house when his father walked out on the family. Now that his father is back, C.J. struggles to find not only his place in the family but also forgiveness for his father, who is doing everything in his power to make amends.
Told in free verse poetry, this book tells the journey from fall to spring, from hate to forgiveness, and from separation to unity. The simple words are rich with figurative language. C.J. compares the family conversations to bakin
Dev Singer
Aug 17, 2013 Dev Singer rated it liked it
I read this book for my Multicultural Resources for Diverse Communities class.

Smith, H. A. (2008). Keeping the Night Watch. Lewis, E. B. (Illus.) New York: Henry Holt.

Hardcover | $18.95 | ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-7202-0 | 73 pages | Grades 6-8 (“Book Awards”) – Novel in Verse

How do you forgive a parent who has walked out on you? Can you ever rebuild the trust formed between parents and child? These are the overarching questions found in Hope Anita Smith’s Keeping the Night Watch.

Keeping the Night Wat
Dec 05, 2012 Ed added it
Shelves: poetry
Smith, Hope Anita. (2008). Keeping the Night Watch. New York: Henry Holt. 74 pp. ISBN 978-0-8050-7202-0(Hardcover); $18.95

In this companion volume to Smith’s award winning first book, The Way a Door Closes, C.J. wrestles with his feelings about his father. After leaving him, C.J.’s dad is back. C.J. is not sure whether he should be grateful that he can return to being the 13 year old son or whether he should forgive his father for sticking him with this responsibility in the first place. When Zu
Erin Forson
Nov 29, 2011 Erin Forson rated it really liked it
Keeping the Night Watch
by Anita Smith
C.J.'s dad walked out on the family years ago, and C.J. is used to being the man of the house. But when his dad comes back into town, C.J. can't understand why everyone allows his father to walk right in and take over. Written in verse and powerfully illustrated, this novel showed me what it must feel like to be forced to grow up too early, and then be expected to go back to being a child again—including following the rules children are expected to follow. Wh
Debra Zager
Jun 15, 2013 Debra Zager rated it it was amazing
Shelves: libs-678
I read this straight through last night and I am usually not a devourer of poetry. I read a few and put it down then read a few more but I literally could not put this book down! The poems are written from the perspective of a black, teenager, C.J, whose father has returned home. He has been the man of the family and now he resents the return of his dad. We are never told where his dad has been but he has been gone for a while and one poem "We are Family" is about the return of the prodigal son. ...more
Leslie Brevard
Coretta Scott King Illustrator
Keeping the Night Watch
5 stars
5th – high school
This was one of the deepest books I have read in a long time. If I could I would give it more than five stars it was amazing. The illustrations went along well with the text. They were neutral colors that showed much emotion when looked at after reading the text. The text had so many emotions from being so angry in the beginning of the book to crying and forgiving in the end of the book. The way each pages was laid out
Lisa Nocita
Jun 16, 2010 Lisa Nocita rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Keeping the Night Watch is written in verse about a young man's experience and feelings about a father who walked out on his family for awhile who then returns. Cameron (C.J.) grapples with a number of intense emotions in dealing with his father's return. He's reluctant to trust, angry, hurt, confused, and, ultimately, hungry to believe and count on his father to be there. The poems are lovely and capture each moment of his angst in a crystalline manner. I think the poem that amazed me the most ...more
Jan 20, 2009 Becky rated it liked it

Keeping the Night Watch is a sequel (companion novel?) to The Way A Door Closes. However, you don't have to have read the first book to enjoy and appreciate this one. Our hero and narrator is a young African-American man named C.J. who is struggling with finding his place in his family now that his father has reentered the picture and rejoined his family. C.J. grew into being 'the man' of the family. But now where does he belong? He can't go back to being a child? Can he?

Hope Anita Smith's poems
LG Buschmann
Jul 15, 2013 LG Buschmann rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-lit, everybody
When C.J.’s father left, he filled the void as the man of the house for his mom and Grandmomma, and younger brother and sister. But now his father has returned and nothing feels right. Everyone else is ready to forgive…but not C.J. He is angry – and his rage is affecting his relationships with his family and his life outside the house. Now that this “stranger” is back, C.J. feels his standing has changed, and he not ready to give it back to his daddy and forget.

Written in free verse, time moves
Sep 21, 2009 Ebony rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ficton
The first part of this book is awesome! I have never read a more heartfelt exposition of a young man’s anger, confusion, and displacement when his father returns home. The story is beautifully told in a series of poems about the young boy’s animosity towards his father. It’s brilliant. It’s poignant. I would recommend it to any preteen readjusting to a parent in his or her life. Some passages I just read over and over they were so moving especially “Seven Ways of Looking at My Father.” The secon ...more
Rachel Parker
Jul 17, 2010 Rachel Parker rated it really liked it
This book of poetry is about a 13 year old boy named C.J. who is trying to understand why his father left his family and then returned. It goes through what he is feeling and how his life has changed. C.J. isn't as quick to forgive his father like the rest of his family did. Instead he remembers when his father was gone and all the responsibilites that it seemed like he had to take over. A couple of these being reading to his little sister and checking over the house before going to sleep.

I real
Strong, strong telling of a 13-year-old boy's feelings and reactions to his father's return to their home. I really liked it, but never understood why or where the father left. Although I don't have personal history with this situation, I loved that this poetry gave me that - at least the raw emotions involved. I don't know if the family nucleus the father left and then their attempts to reconstitute it would be the same for many, so would hesitate to make this a classroom wide addition. However ...more
Brenda Lopez
Brief Summary: Tells a story about a thirteen-year-old boy named CJ as he struggles to understand why his father walked out on his family. His father is back, but CJ refuses to forgive him. CJ’s anger is making him a stranger in his own home, and instead of life getting better now that Dad has returned, he feels worse. Through poems, this book shares the emotions of a family that is slowly learning how to heal and put the pieces back together.
Critique: I think this book is highly powerful. It ex
Bobby Parker
May 24, 2010 Bobby Parker rated it liked it
I liked this book because I thought it was interesting. I thought it'd be a bunch of different poems about different topics but this book's a bunch of poems about one family told from the point of view of one teenager (CJ). It's about a black family whose father has just returned home. It never says why he left but the poems tell the story of how CJ adapts to getting his father back along with becoming a man himself.

I liked it. I didn't love it because I felt like some parts were poetic and othe
Holly Brown
Nov 27, 2012 Holly Brown rated it really liked it
This book is about a boy named C.J. His Dad had left home several months ago because of financial issues and has just returned. The rest of the family has welcomed the dad back, but C.J. has to work out his issues and letting go of his anger so he can forgive his dad.

This book showed me that poetry can be interesting. Before now, I never enjoyed poetry.

I would use this book in my classroom in order to teach my students about the importance of forgiveness and how anger mostly hurts the person th
Feb 02, 2017 Bless rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful! This gives me a great big sense of hope that things may change and it depends how you handle it. Forgiveness is a very hard thing to do and the healing process takes a lot of time. So it truly depends on you if you want to hold in all your anger that will affect only you. Do you feel the pain others do? Do they feel your pain? Letting things go is hard, but if you really try, you will be relieved and you will stress no more. You will even feel like you graduated from your p ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
In The Way a Door Closes, CJ must deal with his father's suddenly leaving the family. Here in Keeping the Night Watch, he must deal with his father's equally sudden return. I like Smith's poetry, and the way she varies the poetic form from poem to poem. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the way E.B. Lewis depicted CJ--with the same buzz-cut bald head and almost as tall as his father, so that, at times, I couldn't tell who I was looking at. It made it a little difficult sometimes to ...more
Mar 13, 2009 Robin rated it it was amazing
Wow. I hesitate to even try and describe this book because it will result in epic fail. But, here goes: a juvenile book, told in a series of short free verses, about a 13 year old whose father has returned after an "absence". See? You don't care, right?

Someone left this book on my desk to peruse before it was sent out to our branches. It was FANTASTIC. That's really all I can say about it. If I could give it 8 stars, I certainly would. You'll be thinking about it long after the story is done.
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
I like this companion to The Way a Door Closes better -- it seems stronger and even more powerful. The cover is stunning; each poem delivers and often surprises and illuminates. There are pictures within the words and there is poetry in many of the illustrations. Great match, Smith and Lewis. They definitely "speak" the same language here!

Favorite pieces: Family Cooking Instructions/p5
Showdown at the O.K. Corral/p13
Seven ways of Looking at My Father/p17
Unidentified Family Member/p22
Sign Language
Mar 06, 2010 Eden rated it liked it
A quick read, the poems drew you in, although all that anger was tiring. This is a sequel. Problem – he sees Maya as a “thing with breasts and thighs and…” The poem with Preacher giving him the negligee????
*Summary: C.J.’s father has returned. His mother and sibling accept him back, but C. J. is still angry.
Booktalk: How do you handle anger? Do you swallow it, strike out, or let it roll off of your back? C.J. is angry, angry that his dad left the family, leaving him to be the man of the house an
Oct 06, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
C.J.'s father walked out of his family's lives, which crushed them. However now, his father has walked back into their lives. C.J. is expected to accept his father's return with no issue, but it isn't that easy. C.J. had to grow up and become the man of the house very quickly and he doesn't trust his father enough to pass those responsibilities back.

This is a very real portrayal of what many young men go through in today's world. There is alot of anger when a parent leaves a family (no matter t
Jun 03, 2010 Rachel rated it it was amazing
This was such a moving book. I'm not one for poetry or stories told in poems, but the simpleness of these poems tied together to make a brilliant story. This dealt with C.J.'s struggle to accept his father who has returned after having left the family. Through C.J.'s struggle to deal with the emotions of a once absent father, we see him grow. The poems are so simple yet they so elegantly portray the feelings of a lost, young man.
CH _Kenya  Walker
Mar 21, 2010 CH _Kenya Walker rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
In this beautifully written and powerfully moving novel in poems, Hope Anita Smith tells the story of a young man’s struggle to accept a father who has walked out on his family. Here, in CJ’s words, is a portrait of hurt and healing, and finding the strength to open the door again. Because of the serious content I would use this book with middle school students also to support the reading and writing of poetry as well as the various topics that can be used to display their work.
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On her journey to becoming an award-winning author, Hope Anita Smith has been a storyteller, teacher, photographer, artist and a singer. Her first book, THE WAY A DOOR CLOSES won several awards including, The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award, the Judy Lopez award from the Women's National Book Association, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor, the Claudia Lewis Award from Bank Street Coll ...more
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