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“Never discourage anyone...who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”
Summary: Everyone has called Eleanor Robinson "Groovy" for as long as she can remember. It's a nickname her Dad gave her. But when he is sent to jail because he stole her inheritance - money she was going to use for cooking school - she decides that it's time for a change. She wants to be called Eleanor, just like her namesake aunt. Luckily, Eleanor isn't in this alone, and along the way she learns a lot about friends, enemies, and families (not just hers!). This is a middle grade fiction novel about a girl whose life is turned upside down. This has potential as a high/low book.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and up; read yourself: 12 and up
Interest Level: 10 and up
Reading Level: 4.5
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: I loved this book and couldn't put it down. All along the way I kept cheering that dad going to jail was a mistake (because Mom isn't particularly likeable), but the disappointment turns around at the end, as Eleanor works through her problems. The author did a fabulous job engaging the reader in understanding that you have to deal with problems that aren't of your own making -- and that whining, crying, and blaming don't help. Eleanor's story is well complemented by Frankie's story.
Pros: This is an engaging ensemble cast whom teens will love. Their stories are unique, yet woven together in the ways they share dreams, trials and tribulations, and the angst of growing up.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a wonderful story, and if you are a fan of books with strong female characters, you probably want to add this to your permanent collection.
Educational Themes: This is largely a book for pleasure reading, though each time you put down the book you think about the characters. It would make an excellent choice for a book club, as you can explore themes of family dynamics, addictions, parental separation, personal responsibility, and friendship, among others.
Notes: Flesch Kincaid reading level 4.5
Literary Categories: Fiction - young adult, coming of age, family, middle grade, realistic fiction
Date(s) Reviewed: September 2009
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.