Twelve-year-old Rebel McKenzie is aptly named.
While the aspiring paleontologist dreams of unearthing ancient fossils, she must instead spend her summer watching her 7-year-old nephew, Rudy—who prefers hot dogs with his spaghetti, misses his absent father, and routinely saves a seat for God during lunch. Rebel longs to escape the mobile-home park where her sister lives and join the “Ice Age Kids’ Dig and Safari” camp, but the family lacks the funds for her to do so. Over the summer, Rebel soon discovers others who are also longing for something: her short-tempered neighbor Lacey Jane, whose mother died the previous winter, and Miss Odenia, a retired hand model who yearns to return to her childhood town. A beauty contest with a cash prize seems to be Rebel’s golden opportunity to achieve her goal of getting out of town and into camp. Ransom comically depicts Rebel’s endeavors to prepare for the contest and dethrone local beauty queen/neighborhood nemesis Bambi. However, Ransom carefully balances the tale’s humor with subtler scenes that convey Lacey Jane’s poignant struggle to adjust to her mother’s death and Rudy’s fragile vulnerability.
Spunky and sassy, Rebel redefines beauty pageants in this rollicking tale. (Fiction. 10-13)