A young girl deals with the pressures of school and family.
In this chapter book, Roman (One to Ten, 2017, etc.) introduces Susannah Maya Logan, the white, blonde-haired star of a new series. Third-grader Susannah’s day begins in a bad place, as she confronts the math homework left unfinished before going down to breakfast—late, to her mother’s annoyance—where the frustrations build. But with both parents pressed for time (“It was as if their whole life revolved around that big clock. Its ornate oversized hands dictated whether breakfast would be rushed or whether dinner would be meatloaf with a mountain of mashed potatoes or a quick pizza from Phil’s”), Susannah is prevented from sharing her concerns about school. An uneaten banana joins the uncompleted homework in her backpack, which grows heavier with the addition of an invitation to a friend’s sleepover—in a potentially haunted house—a failed math quiz, and two library books as Susannah moves through the day unable to discuss her problems with anyone. The backpack and the strains it represents expand even more in Susannah’s mind than they do in reality until they explode in a nightmare that brings her parents to her bedroom and leads to a heartfelt discussion about coping techniques (“You let your work control you, rather than the other way around”) and improved communication. Roman does a good job of capturing the frustrations of both Susannah and her overstretched parents, portraying all three as victims of circumstances rather than antagonists. The simple but enjoyable story, taking place in a single day, covers a topic familiar to many young readers and delivers a vocabulary and writing style appropriate for audiences graduating from the Junie B. Jones series and similar works. Although there is a clear message, Roman’s story—which features mostly black and white images by Arkova (Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?, 2017, etc.)—avoids outright didacticism. The final pages leave Susannah’s sleepover fears unresolved, setting up a clear launching point for the sequel.
An engaging tale for beginning readers about contending with the stress of everyday life from a child’s perspective.