A teenage girl learns to cope with the death of a mother that she never met.
Fourteen-year-old Ellie Magari learns about her estranged mother’s death just moments before playing in the marching band at St. Francis of Assisi’s Friday night football game. By the end of the evening, her confusing feelings lead her to toss her glockenspiel into the air, just missing her music teacher and kicking off a series of strained discussions with her single-parent father about why this loss is such a big deal to her anyway. Losing any possibility of ever meeting, knowing, or being loved by her biological mother is hard for Ellie to explain to herself, let alone others, and her father’s protectiveness and frequent references to what he believes are his ex-wife’s character flaws don’t help. Soon Ellie learns that her mother, Wilma “Korky” Korkenderfer died of leukemia after a career as lead singer of the CYNDI LAUPER’S NOT DEAD! tribute band, which Ellie, by her own efforts, gets to eventually experience. While Ellie appears to be white, her friends have varied backgrounds and experiences (one has a congenital limp; another is a Chinese adoptee who identifies as Polish) and help her accept her own history. Acampora hits a few clunky notes, with good-natured wit that occasionally tries too hard.
Straightforward storytelling with a light touch of humor, accessible to a broad spectrum of readers. (Fiction. 8-12)