Southern charm and ghostly magic bridge the loss of 11-year-old Annie Lee’s daddy.
The death of Annie Lee’s vivacious father was sudden and unexpected. So too is moving into a cramped apartment in Durham, North Carolina, and losing her best friends in the process, and so is trying to communicate with her rigid, grief-stricken mother. Throw in the start of sixth grade, a broken washing machine, and constant signs from her father, from shaving cream in the sink every morning to his favorite songs turning on his record player, and life can be downright overwhelming. But in this first-person narration, the plucky white preteen arms herself with an “invisibility cloak” to protect her from loving and losing again. She also changes the course of her life when she sees an ad at the mall for an amateur piano competition with a cash prize. As did the protagonist of the author’s first novel, Where the Watermelons Grow (2018), Annie Lee forms tight bonds with local residents, including a white pianist who prepares her for the competition, a black hairstylist, and a white classmate with her own form of invisibility. Her interactions with these three, as well as with her overworked mother, weave the storylines together and help Annie Lee begin to heal and open up her heart. A blend of other racially diverse characters creates an inclusive neighborhood.
Once again, Baldwin crafts a solid story of hardship tempered by community and resilience. (Fiction. 8-12)