Stanley’s fantasy offers an enticing blend of suspense, an ancient curse, a lonely girl, a hint of romance, and a fairy-tale trope.
When Joplin’s estranged grandfather, a famous yet reclusive author, dies, her mother insists she take something of his to remember him by. Joplin chooses a broken, centuries-old delftware platter. Once mended and hanging on her wall, the lonely 11-year-old white girl, friendless and bullied at school, admires the painted girl in the platter’s center and wishes for a friend. The next morning, the Dutch girl from the platter is sitting in the garden! Sofie is cursed, forced to grant any wishes made by the platter’s owner. With the help of a new friend, fellow lunchtime-hider-in-the-library Barrett, a white boy who, like Joplin, has “just the right amount of geekiness,” Joplin attempts to free Sofie. After Sofie’s kidnapping by the centuries-old, menacing alchemist who placed the curse, the kids devise a plan, with some adult help, to reverse the curse. First-person narrator Joplin is a likable, sensitive girl whose middle school travails will ring true with readers. The story of how the platter came to Joplin’s grandfather nicely connects Sofie and Joplin’s mother. An afterword revealing the book’s connections to the author is moving.
With magic and a bit of danger, and touching on themes of family, loss, friendship, misunderstandings, kindness, and second chances, Joplin and Sofie’s story is not soon forgotten. (Fantasy. 8-12)