A can-do attitude, loyal friends, and a foolproof plan prove insufficient when a seat-stealing new girl swooshes in.
Gertie Reece Foy is a feisty, white fifth-grader with an indomitable spirit and a surefire plan to be the greatest fifth-grader in the "whole school, world, and universe! And that was just Phase One." A for-sale sign in front of the house where her mother lives has pushed Gertie into action. Gertie lives with her dad and aunt, and she is totally fine with that. Yep! But she wants Rachel Collins, her mother, to know exactly how wonderful, remarkable, and great she is. Almost as soon as she launches her big plan, however, blonde, white new girl Mary Sue Spivey starts throwing wrenches in it. Beasley’s debut is populated with a cast of homespun characters that come alive in a tasty blend of twitches, aphorisms, and good, old-fashioned meanness. In addition to determination and an endless supply of Twinkies, she gives Gertie two good friends: Junior, who brims with nervous energy, and supersmart Jean with her extra-sharp No. 2 pencils. (Tamaki depicts the latter two as white and dark-skinned, respectively, in her charming grayscale illustrations.) Readers will wonder why Gertie's mom lives so close by but evidently has no contact with her daughter, a question that may drive some to distraction.
Still, the tale of Gertie and her grab for greatness is a rich and enjoyable read, and children will relate to her heartfelt emotions. (Fiction. 10-12)