A new neighbor brings change and mystery to rising seventh grader Alberta Freeman-Price.
Despite the fact that Alberta and her dads are some of the small number of black people in Ewing Beach, California, Alberta leads a pretty chill life, surfing and eating ice cream with her best friend, Laramie. Then the bed-and-breakfast across the street is taken over by new neighbors from New York, a black single mom and her goth daughter, Edie. The fact that Edie is black fuses the bond between the two. When Edie discovers mysterious journals in the attic of the B&B, she shares them with Alberta. The author of the journals was Constance, a young woman who apparently worked as a nanny in the building during the 1950s. The girls’ obsession with the journals combines with their emerging friendship to cause Alberta to feel torn between Laramie, who is white, and Edie. While Alberta and Edie juggle the awkward, sometimes-painful dynamics of middle school friendships, bullies, and racism, their research into the journals leads the girls to a discovery of family and racial dynamics that transcends time. Colbert’s middle-grade debut, centering black girls who represent a range of experiences, deserves a standing ovation. Alberta’s narration is perceptive and accessible as she navigates race in America in the past and present.
A heartfelt tale with classy, indelible characters. (Fiction. 10-12)