The passage of time, a contest, and good friends help a grieving 11-year-old move on from the death of her mother and baby brother.
In the autumn of 1932, bowing to community pressure, Possum’s father sends her to school for the first time. This likable, capable child has been home-schooled well. She’s sure she already knows enough. Besides, she wants no more changes in her life. At school, she must share a desk with a jealous fellow student who suggests that her father is sweet on the new Yankee teacher, who insists on calling her LizBetty. It’s almost intolerable—but there’s an essay contest. Winning will not only get her the beautiful book of fairy tales she covets, it will prove she knows enough to stay home. Possum’s first-person voice is convincing, full of metaphors reflecting her rural Southern mountain background. Interspersed with the narrative covering the three months up to the end of the contest and Christmas are essays written by Possum, her rival, Mary Grace, and her friends Tully and June May. With distinctive, fleshed-out, mostly white characters, awkward beginning romances, and a satisfying resolution, this growing-up story seems both familiar and fresh.
Laso’s posthumously published first novel goes down smooth as sweet tea. (Historical fiction. 8-12)