by Kate DiCamillo
5th Grade and up
“There were three of them, three girls.”
Raymie, “flexing her toes and isolating her objectives”, and her two unlikely companions: Beverly, looking permanently fierce, and Louisiana, who is decked out in pink and a mass of hair barrettes for luck. These girls are enrolled with this alarming character to learn baton twirling in order to compete in the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition.
Marvelous kids, appalling circumstances: a dead-beat dad, a mother with a fist, a lovable but klepto grandmother, and other sadly deficient grown-ups. How’s a kid to figure it all out? But they do somehow, through friendship, daring, and resourcefulness. This is a whimsical, funny-sad story. It isn’t necessarily a book only for young readers. It can take you back to your childhood and the sometime obsessive need one had to fix important stuff that had become unraveled, because somehow you felt that only you could. DiCamillo captures the sense of all that.
One of my all time favorite children’s books is The Tale of Despereaux. This novel is so different but shows the depth and range of this wonderful author.
- debut novel by Esther Ehrlich
- 336 pages
- designated grades 5 – 8
The cover of this book comes over as cozy, sweet, and safe, but the story soon rips that notion apart. In her debut novel, Ehrlich takes on some very hard and serious themes. Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein lives with her family near the salt marshes of Cape Cod. The setting is idyllic, but the situation is far from being so. Chirp’s mother is diagnosed with MS, and the family struggles to come to terms with it. The writing is tight and beautiful, layered and insightful. Ehrlich communicates panic and despair but a certain though tenous hope. Friendship and family relationships are believable but fraught with emotion. Rachel, Chirp’s sister, and Joey, her best friend, are masterfully developed. The story is so compelling but very sad. There are no glib answers here, just kids making things more complicated than ever, (and me saying: No!!! Please don’t do that!!) This book is worth reading, but it is rough and therefore not for everyone. If I was a parent, I’d probably read this before recommending it to my child. Literature can be a great way to approach grim topics and talk about them. Also available on audio.
A further review by MS librarian, Akossiwa K is found at: Akossiwa and “Nest” review