If you’re looking for a great book for a middle-school TCK (third culture kid), you’ve found it.
Sharon Creech is already recognized as an outstanding writer and storyteller. She is best known for her award-winning book Walk Two Moons.
Bloomability is similar to Walk Two Moons in that it also tells the story of a young girl with an unusual family situation who goes on a journey, and who happens to be right in the middle of growing up. But, in Bloomability, our heroine, Dinnie, has one more twist in her story: she’s living in a foreign country.
Dinnie recounts that in her “first life” in the United States, her family regularly moved to various states as her father pursued “opportunities.” Things were not going well, though Dinnie seems to have taken the frequent moves in stride. After some problems with her siblings, life changes in a major way for Dinnie. Her Aunt Sandy and Uncle Max come to take her to Switzerland, where her uncle serves as the headmaster for an international school.
Dinnie struggles with leaving her family and being in a new country. She is not entirely sure why she is being taken away; she even says that her aunt and uncle have “kidnapped” her. She doesn’t hear from her family often, and feels a bit lost. But, as with all her other moves before, she makes some new friends and rolls with the punches.
This time, however, Dinnie realizes that this is not just another new place, and it’s not just another group of kids to befriend. It dawns on her that, perhaps for the first time in her life, Dinnie has a lot in common with these students, even though they are all from different countries. In her “first life,” Dinnie was always the new kid.
But, “[h]ere everybody was from different places, not just me. Most of the people were new, not just me. Everybody had a different accent, not just me.”
For children who live overseas, especially those who have other expat friends, this will ring very true. In fact, there are many passages that will resonate with TCKs as they read Dinnie’s story.
Here’s one quote that I liked in particular:
“If someone asked me where I was from, I could just say ‘the States.’ I didn’t have to go into that whole long story of my first life, about how I was born in Kentucky but then lived in Virginia and North Carolina and Tennessee and on and on and on. I wasn’t the only nomad here. Lots of people were nomads. Nomads were normal!”
Nomads are normal.
Middle schoolers are at a time in their life when they are trying to fit in. They want to know they are part of some group. For kids growing up overseas, who aren’t 100% part of their home culture, but aren’t 100% part of their host culture, either, it’s important to know that they are part of a group. That they are normal.
It’s a great thing for TCKs to be reminded of. (And TCK parents, too!)
Bloomability provides a great story to communicate this. It doesn’t sugar-coat life overseas. Not all the problems are solved, and at the end of the story, Dinnie is still facing the decision of returning home to the States permanently, or spending another year in Switzerland. But overall, it provides a positive framework for what it’s like to “find normal” while growing up in another country.
And that is a wonderful message for any middle-school TCK.