GRACIE'S GIRL by Ellen Wittlinger


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Personal contact with a homeless woman teaches a sixth-grade girl what values are really important. Bess Cunningham is the daughter of a social worker, who, in a nice touch, is too busy doing good works to give her daughter the affection and attention she craves. Bess is about to start middle school, and this year her goal is to shed her nerdy elementary-school persona, make new friends, and hang with the popular crowd. To get noticed, she decides to don funky thrift-store clothing—which does indeed get her noticed though not in the way she was hoping—and volunteers to be the stage manager for her school's play. An encounter with an elderly destitute lady named Gracie raises Bess's consciousness in respect to the homeless—she had regarded them as scary and unsavory—and she begins to help the addled woman, first reluctantly, then finally with her whole heart. Wittlinger does a good job of presenting the change in Bess's mindset, her growing compassion and realization that Gracie is a real person, "definitely strange, but not totally nuts or anything." The book also elucidates the broad spectrum of attitudes that exist toward the indigent, though unfortunately the author defines her characters by their position on the homeless rather than giving them unique personal flavors. After a tragedy, the book ends on a hopeful note, and Bess learns some important if predictable lessons. Earnest and well-intentioned, this should shed some light on an important social issue. (Fiction. 8-12)

ISBN: 0689849605
Page count: 190pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster