Rose’s debut children’s novel delivers a valuable narrative about a fifth-grader facing bullying, learning disabilities and a ghostly mystery.
After 10-year-old Jamie Ireland’s best friend moves away, a bully targets her on the bus, and her teacher humiliates her in class over her messy handwriting. Writing makes her hand cramp, and she has trouble spelling because her brain scrambles certain words and letters. Jamie’s loving parents are busy with work, and she’s sure that they expect her to be as perfect as her older sister. One night, Jamie has an odd dream about a woman offering her a book with a heart-shaped grease stain on its cover—“[a]nd that’s when Jamie’s dream hopped like a rabbit from her asleep-brain into her wide-awake-brain.” She rummages in her attic and makes a discovery that connects her with her grandmother, who died before she was born: a cookbook with a heart-shaped grease stain and a special recipe for apple pie. Jamie delves into the science of cooking and adds baking to her other interests, which include running races at recess and reading. But when the bullying continues, Jamie’s learning problems worsen. So does her frustration, culminating in a suspension from school and a counselor’s request that she keep a daily inspiration diary. The pages of this diary also feature well-chosen quotations from wide-ranging sources (such as “Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand,” by philosopher Baruch Spinoza). The line drawings and graphic design elements by illustrator Tito add visual interest as Rose deftly tells the story of Jamie’s emergence from her shell and her diagnosis of dyslexic dysgraphia. The author’s prose is never preachy or saccharine, and it nicely builds suspense where appropriate. A junior baking contest ends the book on a satisfying note.
A highly readable work of juvenile fiction about a spirited young girl’s ups and downs.