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Seventh-grade narrator Maryanne Russell moves into the Aristocrat Arms, a rundown apartment building in a dubious neighborhood in Seattle. Since her father died over a year ago -- after his electronics store failed -- Maryanne and her mother have been struggling to make ends meet in their large suburban home. Now Maryanne can hear the neighbor's quarrels; her mother works for the slave-driving building manager, Mrs. Eldrich, to help pay their rent; and the only view is of the Executive Arms, the Aristocrat's twin across the street. This last is the hardest for Maryanne, who loved gardening with her father. Maryanne soon becomes best friends with Lottie Hale, another seventh-grader whose mother also works for Mrs. Eldrich, and they become even closer when their mothers become co-owners of an espresso shop nearby. Maryanne remembers her father's business failure and resents her mother's using their savings to buy the store. But, although it is nothing like their old home, Maryanne and her mother find a decrepit little house in the neighborhood with a neglected garden that the girl yearns to revive. Maryanne gets her house, a stepfather, a brother, and even a good friend (or more) in a neighborhood boy, and she finally realizes that she can survive and even thrive in this strange new place. Thesman's (Cattail Moon, p. 310, etc.) novel is loosely structured and a little too open-ended, but it is a poignant story that easily transcends these slight deficiencies.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1994
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: HarperCollins