Spinelli’s free verse presents a summer of self-acceptance for one girl.
Suzy is almost 12 when her 4-year-old brother sees their elderly neighbor collapse. He dials 911 and becomes a “little hero” in their town. Suddenly everything revolves around him, and no one seems to care about Suzy’s needs. Worse, she doesn’t get a part in the community play, but her best friend, Alison, does. Suzy is feeling decidedly unloved and decides that her best bet is to emulate a poet she has recently learned about—Emily Dickinson. Suzy insists on being called Emily and makes a list of Emily-appropriate activities (write poems, dust, read, listen to crickets). But Suzy soon finds that being a recluse is a lonely occupation. Lots of white space on the page, short chapters and appealing illustrations make this an unintimidating read for even the most reluctant readers. And besides, it’s a rollicking good story. Spinelli mixes dollops of wit with her dabs of pathos to keep things lively and realistic in a fresh way that nevertheless feels comfortably old-fashioned. The interspersed bits of history (the origin of baseball, some famous people of the 1800s) and wholesome activities (bicycle riding, helping neighbors, going to the library) make this a story to be enjoyed and appreciated by readers weary of the mall-shopping, cellphone-centric, mean-girl genre.
A witty and endearing story with a timeless message. (Verse fiction. 9-12)