Thursday, May 27, 2021

Lily's Promise

Erskine, Kathryn. Lily's Promise
May 18th 2021 by Quill Tree Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lily has always been home schooled by her dad, but after his death, her mother is not able to keep up with educating her. Lily is painfully shy, and very apprehensive about attending public school. Her fears are well founded; the children are loud, and Ryan and his buddy Brady bully many of the students, included the bow tie wearing Hobart (whom he calls Ho-fart), who is extremely welcoming to Lily. He has a hard time in school as well, but with the help of cafeteria monitor Mr. Hammer, has a good attitude and throws himself enthusiastically into school. Her father had encouraged her to "Strive for Five": speak up, make herself heard, step out of her comfort zone at least five times, so that this becomes second nature. She tries to do this, but it's hard. It is also worthwhile; she makes friends with other students who are struggling to fit in. Javier is from El Salvador, Dunya was in a refugee camp and speaks three languages, and Skylar and his family have fallen on hard times. The students start a campaign to leave positive notes for other students, until the bullies ruin it, but are successful in working toward a culture of acceptance and positivity in their class and the school. Will Lily be able to make the goals her father set for her?
Strengths: It's easy to forget that public school is a microcosm of the larger world, and that it takes a set of skills to be successful with a wide variety of people. While Lily's father made sure that she socialized with other children, middle school, with its crowded hallways and occasional behavioral problems, can be a tough situation if one isn't used to it. Lily's transition is eased by Hobart, who is fairly oblivious to the difficulties of school, and she does make friends, even though this isn't easy. She is also helped by kind teachers, the awesome Mr. Hammer (and there are often characters like Mr. Hammer in middle school roles), and a pleasing array of well known middle grade novels! I liked that fact that she wore dresses because they were comfortable-- I feel the same way! Her mother is also reeling from the death of the father and isn't always meeting Lily's needs, but she is going forward in a positive manner and encourages Lily to step outside her comfort zone as well, which is a much more helpful and realistic way to approach a parent working through grief. 
Weaknesses: I wasn't personally a fan of the chapters written from the book's ("Libro") perspective: these chapters just interpreted what had gone on in the story already and slowed me down from finding out what the characters were doing next, which I very much wanted to know. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for fans of books like Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt that take place in the classroom. There aren't a lot of books about homeschoolers reintegrating into public schools, and since it can be a rocky experience, it's good to see how Lily navigates the change. 

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