Fifth-grader Lula Bell longs to escape the attention of strident bully—and former BFF—Kali.
In her endeavor to blend in, Lula Bell forgoes her favorite lunches, spurns Alan, her staunchest ally, and dismisses her talents. However, her vivacious Grandma Bernice has different ideas, encouraging Lula Bell to “let [her] light shine no matter who's watchin' ” and be true to herself. Lula Bell’s desire to embrace anonymity is at odds with her mother and Grandma Bernice’s wishes for her to participate in the school’s talent show. Grandma Bernice's unexpected death provides the impetus for Lula Bell to reconsider the status quo, leading her to take decisive action and bravely confront her anxieties. A surprising plot development finds Lula Bell demonstrating extraordinary generosity in the true spirit of her beloved grandmother. Ultimately, she realizes that in her quest to be accepted, she has overlooked a true and steadfast friend. Payne thoughtfully examines the grieving process as Lula Bell struggles to accept and adjust to her loss. With an authentic voice, the wryly humorous Lula Bell contemplates life and the nature of true friendship with distinctive candor.
Payne’s hopeful tale encourages readers to rejoice in what makes them unique. (Fiction. 9-12)