Poet Holbrook brings back the Cold War in her debut novel for middle grades.
White sixth-grader Marjorie has lots to worry about in the late winter of 1954. Her father came back from World War II jumpy and abrupt. She's not a fan of Frank, the 18-year-old orphan her father took in, or Carol Anne, her skittish 6-year-old sister. She's best friends with Bernadette, also white, who rules the sixth grade and would make the world's worst enemy, and she just got assigned to share a school desk with Inga, a “displaced person” whom Bernadette has decided to hate. Inga came to Detroit from Canada, but she speaks, sounds, and looks German. Marjorie is drawn to Inga, who's sunny, determined, and kind, but she's afraid to befriend her. Meanwhile Sen. Joe McCarthy's national hunt for Communists has led to the banning of many books from public libraries; in defiance of her husband’s direct orders, Marjorie's mother hides a box of rescued banned books under Marjorie's bed. Holbrook pulls elements of the story from her own multicultural childhood in Detroit after the war. She's ace at delineating the petty jealousies and tyrannies of middle school girls, and her evocation of the era feels absolutely true. Marjorie's cowardice and ultimate courage lead to a rousingly satisfying ending that, if it doesn't quite tie up all the plot threads, will resonate with readers.
A solid fictional examination of a time rarely depicted for this age group. (Historical fiction. 10-14)