Freedom Jane McKenzie, 10, has written her “Last Will and Testimony,” and in it, she passes her most treasured worldly possession, her bag of marbles, on to her best friend, Daniel.
That would be fine, except Daniel has come to the sad realization that sixth-grade boys should probably primarily be associating with boys, not playing marbles with girls, even talented ones like Freedom. In fact, nearly all of the marble-playing boys have decided they don’t want to play with her. Meanwhile, she’s set her sights on winning the marbles competition at the Autumn Jubilee. Her mother strongly disapproves. But her mother has a few more issues to deal with besides marbles: Freedom’s father’s drinking has begun to control his life and theirs, and she’s due to have a baby any day now. Blake’s debut novel, lovingly set in 1959 Idaho, gently reminds readers that some things never change: Growing up was a challenge in the 1950s, and it remains so. Incorporating the lingo of marble-playing, which will be unfamiliar to most readers, adds a mildly exotic flavor to Freedom’s entertaining tale. Freedom’s voice, nicely captured in her first-person narration, is often droll and never boring.
This one is for keepsies, and it would be perfect paired with a how-to book on marble games. (Historical fiction. 9-12)