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Three Keys

Kelly Yang

Three Keys is the sequel to Front Desk and it will now hold a special place in my heart. Distance learning has been trash, but reading those two books during Closing Circle every day has absolutely been a saving grace.

Three Keys brings us back to Calivista Hotel and its diverse cast of characters. Set in 1994 Southern California, this book hit differently. It largely discusses Prop 187 and its aftermath. Prop 187 sought to prohibit undocumented Americans from using non-emergency healthcare, public education, and other services in the state of California. It passed with 60% of the vote. Courts would later strike it down through appeals because it was deemed unconstitutional, but the damage was done. Hate crimes rose, people died. Mia and company must navigate the effects of this legislation as Lupe, her best friend, is undocumented.

This book took my class and I through so many emotions, when it was over, one kid stated, “That was intense.” It really was, and I have to admire Kelly Yang for writing this because she really has a lot of respect for her young audience, and it is something I really appreciate when trying to find good Middle Grade Lit. Fourth grade is a tough year because they are old enough to explore heavier topics, but there has to be a balance because you don’t want students to feel hopeless. This duology does just that. It was also so beautiful because it forced me to create a mini-unit on immigration and the conversations that came out of that were so meaningful. We talked about the differences between refugees, immigrants, and migrants. We read different picture books reflecting the different experiences. Students who came from immigrant families centered their own experiences and felt comfortable talking about it to the whole class. It was really special, and something I am very grateful for, because if it wasn’t for this book that probably wouldn’t have happened. Representation matters, and Three Keys does a spectacular job of highlighting the nuances of the immigrant experiences in really thoughtful ways. I will be reading these every year now, and I suggest you pick these up too.

three keys by kelly yang cover
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