Claire, the only girl in her small Maryland island school, recounts her fifth-grade year in a series of humorous yet poignant letters to her best friend who moved away.
With Bess in California and Henry, her other best friend, ignoring her, Claire is lonely. She does have the girls’ bathroom to herself, transforming it into a cozy clubhouse where she can read and create wall drawings of her daily trials, which range from Yucky Gilbert’s relentless pursuit to kiss her to Webby’s bullying behavior. From the traditional annual elementary school square dance to the production of A Christmas Carol, in which she plays all female parts, from having hot sauce poured on her pizza to being tripped in soccer—nothing dampens Claire’s spunk. A champion in previous sailing regattas, Claire convinces Henry to crew for her; they are a team again. A touch of magical realism ensures Claire, Webby, and Henry’s success on their school project about local legend Smuggler Joe, thus cementing their friendship. Durfee’s cartoonlike illustrations nicely capture the book’s amusing tone and also affirm that Claire and her six classmates are white, though teacher Mr. Harper has dark skin.
An engaging first-person voice and convincing characters make this epistolary novel of friendship and girl power a success. (Fiction. 8-12)