Nominated for the Cybils by Terry Dougherty
Fifth grader Clara Lee has a bad dream, but her grandfather assures her that this means she will have a lucky day, and she does. She gets to sit in the back of the bus, gets to read the best part in class, finds a candy necklace in her desk, and generally has a great day. How long will the luck last? She wants to try out for Little Miss Apple Pie in the town Apple Blossom Festival, but she's afraid her speech won't be as good as Dionne's, and she doesn't have the family history in the town that Dionne has. To complicate matters, she has a fight with her sister and disappoints her grandfather, and also fights with a boy who has a crush on her.
Strengths: This reminded me of Carolyn Haywood's Betsy books, which I adored. There is the multicultural twist of Clara Lee being Korean. Details of her family's differences are included, but are not the main story. I would definitely purchase this for an elementary school and am debating it for middle school. Really charming.
Weaknesses: The fight at dinner didn't come across as that big a deal to me.
Cheng, Andrea. Where Do You Stay?
Nominated for the Cybils by Charlotte.
Jerome, reeling from his mother's death from cancer, is trying to fit in with his Aunt Geneva's family, although it's hard to get along with his two cousins, and he misses his piano. When he meets Mr. Willie, who is staying in the carriage house of a derelict mansion on Jerome's street, he finds that the two share an interest in music. Mr. Willie tells Jerome about the history of the house, and when it looks like the house might be sold, the two make an attempt to fix it up. When a couple buy the house to use as the school, Mr. Willie needs to find another place to live, but Jerome helps fix up the house in hopes that the piano Mr. Willie talked about might be there.
Strengths: This reminded me of Constance Greene's A Girl Called Al, although it wasn't quite so sad! Jerome's family is loving and supportive, but his reluctance to be adopted by them rings true. Having lived in Cincinnati, I could tell that Ms. Cheng drew on her experience in the neighborhoods there to have a strong sense of place. I'll have to read this author's The Year of the Book, which comes out in May.
Weaknesses: There IS no house at 8600 Reading Road! I looked it up on Google Maps Streetview, and it's an empty lot. This somehow makes me very sad! I've even been to The Glass Barn down the street! Charlotte is right that the cover could be better; it is rather dark.