Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Private Thoughts of Amelia E. Rye

"All a person needs in life is one true friend.”

So says Grandpa Thomas, the only member of Amelia’s family who cares about her one bit. That true friend finally arrives when Fancy Nelson, the first Negro kid Amelia has ever seen in person, walks into her fourth grade classroom. As Fancy’s special sort of magic rubs off on Amelia, she slowly comes to understand her trainwreck family and her place in it—and Fancy discovers a surprising secret about her own past.

Shimko's engaging novel, set in the 1960s in a small town in northeastern New York, is narrated by 13-year-old Amelia Earhart Rye. Named by her beloved Grandpa Thomas after the famous pilot, friendless Amelia has an incredibly mean mother; Amelia was a surprise baby, and her mother jumped out a window when she discovered she was pregnant (“...she was pure furious that I kept on kicking. And she blamed me for the scars on her face, too”). When Fancy Nelson, the first black child Amelia has ever seen, moves to town and befriends her, Amelia is inspired by Fancy's courage and confidence, and begins to enjoy an enlarged and enriched life. The book is peopled with believable, multilayered characters, except for Amelia's mother, who is so broadly drawn as to approach caricature. But as Amelia matures and changes her own behavior, her mother grows more sympathetic. Shimko's story is original, and Amelia's distinctive voice and likable nature will have readers rooting for her in times of trouble and cheering her ultimate good fortune. The happy ending is immensely satisfying. Ages 10–14. (Apr.) Publishers Weekly

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