Cover image for Lena
Woodson, Jacqueline.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
115 pages ; 22cm
Thirteen-year-old Lena and her younger sister Dion mourn the death of their mother as they hitchhike from Ohio to Kentucky while running away from their abusive father.
General Note:
A sequel to: I hadn't meant to tell you this.
Reading Level:
680 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.4 4.0 28503.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.4 8 Quiz: 21540 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


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X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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At the end of I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This, Marie's friend Lena and her little sister Dion ran away to escape their abusive father, leaving Marie full of longing and readers full of questions. Now Lena tells what happened to the two girls out in the world, and of their search for a place to belong and the home they dream of and deserve.

Author Notes

Jacqueline Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio on February 12, 1963. She received a B.A. in English from Adelphi University in 1985. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a drama therapist for runaways and homeless children in New York City. Her books include The House You Pass on the Way, I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This, Lena, and The Day You Begin. She won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2001 for Miracle's Boys. After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way won Newbery Honors. Brown Girl Dreaming won the E. B. White Read-Aloud Award in 2015. Her other awards include the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. She was also selected as the Young People's Poet Laureate in 2015 by the Poetry Foundation.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-9. Can sequels work? At the end of Woodson's exquisite landmark novel, I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This (1994), Marie's poor white friend, Lena, runs away with her younger sister, Dion, to escape their abusive father. Now the sisters are on the road in search of home. Disguised as boys, they hitch rides, find shelter where they can, care for each other. Lena, 13, tells it in a quiet, troubled voice. She's protective of her sister, grieving for their dead mother, lonely for her beloved black friend, Marie. In the first novel, the girls' friendship sustained them across racial barriers in a desolate world, but here everything has a glowingly happy ending. Not only are all strangers kind to the runaways--especially an older woman who is everyone's dream grandmother--but Lena calls Marie, whose father overcomes his prejudice about "whitetrash" and gives the runaways a home. What's more, Lena speaks of her own dad like an understanding therapist ("he needs help"). Readers will enjoy Lena's talk about how, like the characters in the The Wizard of Oz, she and Dion do not know their own strength, but the great appeal here is the survival story. After cold and danger, we feel the elemental luxury of shelter: warmth, cleanliness, breakfast, privacy. As in Voigt's Homecoming (1982), these are kids on the road where we live. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rendered as eloquently as I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This, this sequel follows 13-year-old Lena and her precocious little sister, Dion, as they run away from their sexually abusive father. Lena plans to take Dion to Pine Mountain, Ky., the birthplace of their late mother, but hitchhiking in the dead of winter, wondering what dangers and obstacles lie ahead, takes its toll: "I knew what the sun looked like now.... I knew the way the ending day faded the road to blue then black then made it disappear. And the way the cold could come in and turn the whole world winter-brown." Writing in Lena's voice, striking for its balance of tough-mindedness and tenderness, Woodson conveys the love that the protective heroine feels for her sister as well as the compassion of strangers: the truck driver who gives them money, the waitress who understands their situation all too well, and grandmotherly Miz Lily, who opens her arms as well as her door to the travelers. Soulful, wise and sometimes wrenching, this taut story never loses its grip on the reader. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-Like thousands of their real-life counterparts, 13-year-old Lena and her younger sister, Dion, run away from home because of their father's sexual abuse. Disguised as boys and carrying only a few necessities, the girls hitchhike from Ohio to their deceased mother's hometown in Kentucky on the vague and unrealistic hope that some unknown relative might take them in. Readers of I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This (Delacorte, 1994) will recognize Lena as the poor, white girl who skips town in the final chapters of Woodson's heartwrenching and brilliant novel of interracial friendship. Here the story continues, this time in Lena's rough voice, a voice that betrays years of developmental neglect yet still speaks eloquently for the tenacity of the human spirit. With aching honesty, Lena expresses the conflicts many abused children face. "My daddy was really messed up but he was all we had," she admits. Readers who long for a happy ending for these heroic children will not be disappointed. Halfway through the book, they are picked up by a kindly woman who takes them in. Miss Lily's nurturing thaws Lena's defenses and she reaches out to the one friend who can truly bring her home. That her friend Marie's father, an African-American college professor, must overcome his own racial attitudes to help the girls, adds to the novel's richness. Once again, Woodson writes with excruciating clarity about difficult issues of childhood and leaves readers encouraged by humanity's potential for insight, compassion, and hope.-Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



An Excerpt from Lena:         "You crying, Lena?" I felt Dion's little hand on my shoulder.         "What would I be crying for?" I gave my eyes one more wipe and glared         at her.         Dion shrugged. She took a step back from me, hunkered down on her own         knapsack. We must have been a sight--two kids in flannel shirts and jeans         and hiking boots at a Trailways station--Dion chewing on her collar, me         with my head in my hands.         She swallowed like she was a little bit scared of what she was gonna say.         "Where we going, Lena? You tell me that and I won't ask you anything else--ever         again if you don't want me to."         People on the outside who didn't understand would probably look at me         and Dion and say, "Those kids running away from home." But I knew we were         running to something. And to someplace far away from Daddy. Someplace         safe. That's where we were going.         "Mama's house," I whispered, my voice coming out hoarse and shaky. "We         going to Mama's house."         Dion shook her head. "Not the lies we tell people--the true thing. Where         we going for real?"         "Mama's house," I said again, looking away from her.         "Lena?" Dion said "Mama's . . . dead." . . .            ". . .I know she's dead. I didn't say we were going to her. I said we         were going to her house."         "And what's gonna happen when we get there?"         "You said you wasn't gonna ask no more questions, Dion."         Dion nodded and pulled her book out of her knapsack. I took a box of colored         pencils out of mine and the brown paper bag our sandwiches had come in         and started sketching. I sketched the cornfields across the way from us         and a blue car moving in front of them. I sketched the sky with the pink         still in it and Dion sitting on her knapsack reading. Maybe we sat there         an hour. Maybe two or three...We'd learned how to make ourselves invisible.          Excerpted from Lena by Jacqueline Woodson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.