In this heavily illustrated, comic slice-of-life novel aimed at girls, Kate Geller, almost 10, struggles to be a good daughter, sister, friend, student, Junior Guide and flute player.
This fifth-grade heroine may not believe, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, that the “most important decision you will ever make is whether you live in a friendly or a hostile universe,” but she nonetheless works to make hers as filled with harmony as possible. There are plenty of little bumps in the road, but the biggest involve Kate’s nemesis, Nora Klein, a fellow fifth-grader, bus mate, Junior Guide and flute player, who is inexplicably unfriendly, standoffish and sometimes even mean. Kate’s troubled relationship with Nora and her attempt, strongly encouraged by her mother, to make friends, is the heart of the story, as it contains the most emotional juice. Becker does a good job of giving readers a sense of the specifics that make up Kate’s day—art class, band practice, school and Junior Guide projects—but overall, there’s not enough friction to keep the story rolling. The lively black-and-white drawings fill some of these dramatic gaps by adding humor and helping to illustrate Kate’s inner life, but the story sags in places.
Although amusing and easy to relate to, Kate’s fifth-grade experience could use more dramatic flair. (Fiction. 8-12)