Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine, reviewed by Freaky

What a great book...and what a terrible cover! The latter, unfortunately, is the first thing I noticed about the book, and if it weren't for the fact that I ordered this one myself based on the description, I probably would never have picked it up. The story itself should appeal to most upper elementary and middle school students, but the cover design screams Ernest Hemingway - not something that would appeal to most 6th graders (or young turtles, for that matter). I am afraid we are going to have to hard-sell this one.

And sell it we will, because it's a wonderful story. Set in 1917 Alabama, the subjects of racism, true friendship, growing up, being yourself, right and wrong, and parent/child relationships are all dealt with in the simple context of two kids meeting and becoming friends.

"Dit", one of ten kids, feels himself overlooked by his father at times (hard not to when he can't seem to remember your name most times). He is looking forward to the arrival of a new postmaster, who is rumored to have a son his age. He isn't as thrown as some townspeople when the new family turns out to be black, but he is crushed when the son turns out to be a girl - and a timid, prissy one at that.

Despite a rocky start, Dit and Emma become "very best friends," each learning quite a bit from the other - and not just how to throw a ball or enjoy a good book. It doesn't happen quickly, and there are plenty of age-appropriate moments where Dit puts his foot in his mouth without ever realizing he has done it, as well as moments when their racial differences and the attitudes of those around them cause the friendship to stall.

Interesting characters, a quick-moving plot, and chapters that could stand alone as stories keep the reader's attention throughout. We just may see this one on some awards lists atthe end of the year - which we hope will prompt Penguin to rerelease it with a new cover!

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