Wednesday, September 23, 2020

True Definition of Neva Beane

Kendall, Christine. The True Definition of Neva Beane
September 15th 2020 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Neva and her brother Clayton are spending the summer with their grandparents in Philadelphia. Their parents, who are musicians, have recently lost the family home but are hopeful that a European tour will bring them to prominence or at least some financial security. Neva has made one good friend in the neighborhood, and that helps with some of her adjustment. She and Jamila, whose father is from Ghana, frequent the neighborhood pool and hang out in Neva's yard. When Neva becomes more interested in spending time with Michelle, who is a year older and hangs out with Clayton, Jamila's feelings are a bit hurt. Neva is fascinated by the older girl, especially since she seems more comfortable with having a more mature body, and Neva is struggling with the changes she is undergoing, especially since her strict grandparents are treating her differently because of them. When Clayton becomes active in social activism, gathering donations for the less fortunate and planning marches, the grandparents are not happy because they worry about keeping the children safe. Neva wants her parents to come home, but they are not really in a position to do that. Eventually, Neva gets her grandparents to understand that the social issues they fought for in their youth still need to be addressed, and they reluctantly agree that Neva and Clayton can take part in them.
Strengths: I would love to see more books where children are being raised by grandparents, since many of my students are in this situation. The neighborhood is an interesting setting, and I love the pool and Mrs. Giles. Clayton is an exemplary brother, even if he doesn't do exactly what his grandparents want. It was very interesting that both the grandfather and a neighbor volunteered at the hospital holding babies! The grandmother was well drawn, too; she wants to go to the demonstration, but can't stand too long in the sun. Michelle, whom the grandparents think is "fast", has surprising depths. Once we find that Clayton is involved in social activism, this is a really interesting book.
Weaknesses: The beginning of this was very slow. Middle grade books are much more successful if it's easy to tell the direction a book is heading right away, and this took a long time to come around to that.
What I really think: This is such a great cover (Neva loves the dictionary-- look at the words in her hair!) and I will have a lot of students asking for books about social activism in the fall, so I will purchase this. I just wish that this started with the activism instead of with Neva's obsession with the changes in her body.
Ms. Yingling

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