Nine-year-old Sylvie Scruggs becomes obsessed with the notion that she must provide her best friend, Miranda Tan, with a birthday present superior to the one given by Sylvie’s baseball rival, Georgie Diaz.
Sylvie is appalled when Miranda cheers for both Sylvie and Georgie at a baseball game and becomes increasingly worried when she learns that Miranda and Georgie grew close while Sylvie was on a family vacation. The plot revolves mostly around Sylvie’s bumbling attempts to make right a situation she has created: the somewhat accidental theft of Georgie’s new pet ferret. Sylvie’s mother perfectly pegs Sylvie’s personality when she reports to Sylvie’s dad about Sylvie’s day: “No major disasters to report. Just worrying about things she doesn’t need to worry about. Like usual.” Sylvie tells the tale, and while it may well leave younger children laughing, the recommended upper range of 10 seems a stretch. Younger children will enjoy the fact that Sylvie is less mature than almost anyone else in the book, while older kids may wince at her foibles, her erroneous vocabulary choices and her ignorance of the word “indigestion.” The debut novel deftly presents a multiethnic neighborhood, including some Spanish words from Georgie’s abuela. The simple but expressive grayscale illustrations complement the book’s humorous tone.
A good read-aloud for second grade or an independent read for a third grader. (Fiction. 7-9)