Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Other, Better Me

John, Antony. The Other, Better Me
October 1st 2019 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lola is a well meaning ten-year-old who has two good friends, Kiana and Nick, and does nice things like read with kindergartener Tiffany on the school bus in the mornings, in their own "book club". Her mother has been a bit low energy lately, but luckily their neighbor in the trailer park, Mrs. Archambault, often steps in to watch Lola, even taking her to the studio where she teaches yoga classes to older adults. When her teacher, Ms. Del Rio, assigns the students a project to write about "the other me", Lola gets to thinking about the father she has never met. All she knows is that he was from Australia and met her mother when she was working as a waitress, but has never been in her life. She starts to investigate, without telling her mother. She likes hanging out with her friends; Kiana's parents are both funny and nice, and she gets an idea of what having a father would be like. Nick's family is on the well-to-do side, and Nick has a really nice older sister. Lola is somewhat at odds with another girl in her class, Mallory, but finds out that sometimes children are mean because that is how they are treated at home, and works to be a friend to the girl. Lola's mother is diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and has to undergo radiation therapy, which means that Lola spends some time living with Mrs. Archambaud and finding out more about the woman's life as a model and actress in local commercials for a very long time. As her investigation into her father revs up, she learns some family secrets, and also discovers how she feels about not having a father and what her "other, better me" would be.
Strengths: The characters were particularly likable and well-developed in this book. Mrs. Archambaud in particular was delightful, and her backstory was compelling even though it was a very small part of the story. Lola's interest in her unknown father is  understandable and handled realistically throughout. Even though Nick, Kiana, Mallory and Lola are all different kinds of children with different backgrounds, they work well together. Tiffany and her love of the alien Schmorpel books was a funny subplot which also had a serious message about letting children read what they like. This was an enjoyable read, and I love the cover!
Weaknesses: I could have used a tiny bit more explanation about the mother's thyroid problem and the radiation therapy. Not a lot, but it seemed like the mother was ignored a bit in favor of the father, and the idea of a mother not being allowed near her child because she is radioactive might alarm some young readers; a bit more explanation would allay these fears.
What I really think: I really liked this author's Mascot and enjoyed reading this book, but this felt a bit young for my students. I'm debating. I would definitely buy it for an elementary school library.

Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment