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FLIP-FLOP GIRL by Katherine Paterson


by Katherine Paterson

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-525-67480-2
Publisher: Dutton

Paterson writes of today's gritty reality in an easily read story about a fourth grader whose father's death has thrown her family out of balance. Momma has moved them to backwater Virginia to live with Daddy's stepmother ("Nurses can always get jobs. They just can't get a lot of money"); Vinnie has lost her home, a best friend, and--because 5-year-old brother Mason hasn't spoken since the funeral--Momma's attention. Grandma, too, is a trial; she buys Vinnie ugly clothes at the Salvation Army and insists on making her teacher an embarrassing Christmas present. Mr. Clayton is Vinnie's one comfort, sensitive to his pupils' troubles and source of unobtrusive gifts--barrettes to hold Vinnie's hair out of her eyes; shoes for Lupe, who only has flip- flops and whose troubles are greater than Vinnie's: her father's in prison for killing her mother (Lupe is sure he's not guilty). Mr. Clayton marries; affection-starved Vinnie feels so betrayed that she slashes his car with her barrette and--in an agony of guilt when Lupe is blamed--lashes out at Mason, who runs away. Repentant, Vinnie goes to look for him, willingly aided by Lupe, whose generosity and plucky survival in the face of local prejudice subtly contrast with Vinnie's unreasoned, more childlike response to her losses. Once again, Paterson sets characters drawn with extraordinary empathy in a story distinguished by its overarching theme. Vinnie is ordinary, fallible; but with the help of Lupe's quietly courageous model of grace--plus the values enduring in her own family--she reclaims her equilibrium. Touching, engrossing, beautifully wrought. (Fiction. 8-12)