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Mary-Larkin is not as ordinary as she thinks she is, but she's no crusader--and when her conservative Presbyterian minister father and equally principled mother insist that she obey an appeals court school desegregation decision, her only wish is to go on to junior high with her friends who are either moving or giving false addresses in order to avoid attending the previously all black Wheatley. And there are problems at Wheatley, where messy Critter Kingsley, a Unitarian, is the only other student from her elementary school after Annette Deshay runs home the first day screaming that a boy put a hand up her skirt in the cafeteria. Several boys ""borrow"" Mary-Larkin's lunch money until she learns to bring a bag lunch like the other girls, and when she tries out for cheerleader at an assembly the only applause is from Critter and there are even a few hisses. But there is also an English teacher who turns Mary-Larkin--and her whole class--on to poetry; there is one friendly girl who makes lunch time easier and later another, quieter one who becomes a closer friend; even Critter proves more attractive on closer acquaintance. Mary-Larkin's firm, sermonizing father, who almost loses his church over the racial issue, isn't all that dour--the whole family collapses with laughter when her little brothers, who aren't allowed to say ""nigger,"" report after a fight that they called their new schoolmates ""little black motherfuckers""--but he does make you appreciate the virtue of a strict Christian upbringing. Waldron, a Texan who bases this on her own daughter's and a friend's experiences and puts in enough friction to be convincing, is also good at portraying sympathetically--but later putting in their place--the sort of shallow girlish concerns that Judy Blume's characters never outgrow. Best of all, this comes off as a story not ""about"" integration but, very personably, about Mary-Larkin Thornhill, her old and new friends and her enviable family.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1975
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Dutton