When 12-year-old Kate learns that her beloved home, Big Red, is going on the market, she is determined to stop the sale—or at least postpone it until her first dance competition.
Kate tells the story in believable preteen prose, interspersed with texts to her best friends, Stella and Naveen. “Grabbing my phone and falling onto the bed, I texted Stella, My life is over. She wrote back, ??? I tapped out, Selling Big Red.” After seeking ideas from brainy Naveen, Kate persuades him and Stella to help sabotage sales to prospective buyers. There are several very funny scenes centered on efforts to use bad smells (Naveen has placed “fecal matter” and “spoiled food” at the top of his list of resources) and annoying noises—before the real estate agent catches on. By this time, readers will love Kate enough to keep reading. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe that Kate’s parents show little empathy about Kate’s dancing dilemma, since they met each other through their own musicianship and still live alternative, arts-oriented lifestyles. However, their struggles and triumphs, along with their daughter’s, augment the story—as do the dioramas that Kate creates, first as a school assignment and then as her own, self-discovered therapy. Family finances, transcendence via the arts, pet death and adult clinical depression are all gently eased into a pleasing tale. Final illustrations not seen.
Altebrando neatly integrates humor and poignancy into a middle-grade tale of change. (Fiction. 8-12)