Secrets and family upheaval test Katie and Ana’s newly minted friendship.
Adventurous Ana makes fifth grade fun, although Katie still misses the mountains and her friends back in Utah. She’s grateful for the new heart she received after her adoption from a Russian orphanage and for her loving parents, but lately she’s been wondering about her birthparents and life before adoption. Chafing at her mother’s overprotectiveness, Katie admires Ana’s fearlessness, unaware it’s prompted by desperation. Ana’s Jewish family has been torn apart since her father, who played hockey for the Boston Bruins, abruptly left them. Ana’s dropped hockey; her little brother, Mikey, is bullied by a gang of her classmates; their mother’s depressed. Soon their dad’s Russian-immigrant mother, Babushka, arrives to take charge. Ana resents her imperious ways and weird meals, so when Katie bonds with Babushka, friction develops between the girls. Ana envies the attention Katie’s loving, white Christian parents lavish on her; Katie longs for a Babushka to explain and share her Russian heritage. As misunderstandings mount, the white girls’ friendship threatens to unravel. The complicated realities of adoption—for example, that Katie’s intact adoptive family resembles Ana’s fractured one in ways an intact biological family does not—are portrayed with insight rare in children’s fiction. The also-rare depiction of a Russian-born adoptee (one of more than 46,000 in the U.S.) is especially welcome.
A well-told story celebrating the power of friendship to comfort and heal when families fall short. (Fiction. 8-12)