A small-town Francophile dreams big in this story of economic hardships and parental incarceration.
Cleveland Potts has one goal in life: move to Paris, France. Her plan consists of taking ballet lessons (for culture), cooking French cuisine, viewing impressionist art, then applying to the American School of Paris. She already studies French vocabulary with language CDs from the public library, and she’s sure the other steps are within her reach. However, Sassafras, Florida, isn’t a bastion of culture, and her first ballet class ends in disgrace. What’s more, she recently lost all the money from her Paris fund (earned by walking dogs); her father took it after stealing from his boss to feed a gambling addiction. Now he’s in jail, and Cleveland struggles to reconcile her anger for his transgression with how desperately she and the rest of the family want him home. She’s also starting seventh grade with only one friend from her trailer park, an aspiring chef who’s slowly coming out as gay. Gephart once again compassionately creates complex characters, including the members of Cleveland’s presumed-white family, who are profoundly earnest in their collective and individual dreams. Readers won’t “pity” Cleveland (she wouldn’t want any), but they’ll be rooting for her all the way. Includes a glossary of Cleveland’s French phrases, a recipe, and notes on incarcerated parents.
Une histoire d’espoir—a story of hope. (Fiction. 8-12)