Four female – one male protagonist. The settings: London, San Francisco, Vietnam, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Together they make up the five finalists for this year’s Middle Grade Fiction Cybils Awards. Each day this week I’ll have a review of each title:
- Monday: THE BLACKTHORN KEY
- Tuesday: BOOK SCAVENGER
- Wednesday: FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY (Today’s featured Finalist)
- Thursday: BLACKBIRD FLY
- Friday: LISTEN, SLOWLY
The best news is you can win a giveaway of all five hardback books by making a comment on any or all of those days (up to five entries). I’ll draw the name this Sunday (Feb. 21) at 6 pm EST. Good luck!
I expected a whimsical adventure with quite a few laughs along the way. I mean, look at the cover. This was going to be one fun ride…
Whoops, not so fast… Footer Davis is the young female narrator of the story set in modern day Mississippi. She begins the tale nine days after a terrible tragedy at a neighboring farm. Mr. Abrams was shot dead and his two grandchildren are missing, presumed dead in a fire that leveled the place.
There’s a wide range of troubled characters who are possible suspects. From Footer’s mom who is bi-polar and in and out of hospitals, to Captain Armstrong, another neighbor who carries around symptoms of PTSD from his days in the army. Footer has a best friend, Peavine, who has cerebral palsy, but never lets it get the best of him. Together they begin interviewing suspects and hope to find answers since the police so far haven’t found anything.
Footer’s dad is sort of there for her, but with work and a wife recovering, Footer is left trying to internalize her own thoughts. The worst is that she thinks she has a brain tumor and is possibly falling into the same mental illness as her mother. Although there is a lot going on here, the main story of solving the murder carries the story. I had the twist toward the end figured out thanks to the clues dropped along the way, but it was a nice conclusion to an often difficult story to read.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2015 WORD COUNT: 46,527 READING LEVEL: 4.9
FULL PLOT (From AMAZON) Footer Davis is on the case when two kids go missing after a fire in this humorously honest novel that is full of Southern style.
“Bless your heart” is a saying in the South that sounds nice but really isn’t. It means, “You’re beyond help.” That’s what folks say about fifth grader Footer Davis’s mom, who “ain’t right” because of her bipolar disorder. She just shot a snake in Footer’s yard with an elephant gun, and now she’s been shipped off to a mental hospital, and Footer is missing her fiercely yet again.
“Bless their hearts” is also what folks say about Cissy and Doc Abrams, two kids who went missing after a house fire. Footer wants to be a journalist and her friend Peavine wants to be a detective, so the two decide to help with the mystery of the missing kids. But when visiting the crime scene makes Footer begin to have “episodes” of her own, she wonders if maybe she’s getting sick like her mom, and that’s a mystery that she’s not at all sure she wants to solve.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: FOOTER DAVIS… by Susan Vaught
- The chapters often end with either a question and answer session with one of the suspects, which is just about anyone Footer and Peavine know, or one of Footer’s graded homework assignments. Insightful and humorous as they each reveal much of the plot.
- Footer has a troublesome life full of questions beyond what most kids will ever face. A crumbling relationship with her father, a detached mother, and a sense that she is also going crazy. You’ll hope and maybe pray for a better outlook on life from young Footer. Great writing from author Susan Vaught to make a fictional character make you feel this way.
- With Footer’s mom locked away in a mental ward and a dad who doesn’t believer her theories, Footer gets help from a social worker. The dialog they have is rich with sarcasm and honesty. It’s great to see the change each makes in the process.
- The interview in the back of the book is with Susan and her editor. Very enlightening as are the resources on mental illness she adds to the final few pages.
- Footer is a realistic sounding 11-year-old. She questions everything and makes an endearing narrator. It was also nice to have, Peavine, along for the ride. A rare character in MG with cerebral palsy.
FAVORITE LINES: The day my mother exploded a copperhead snake with an elephant gun, I decided I was genetically destined to become a felon or a big game hunter.
AUTHOR QUOTE: I’ve been a published author for over a decade now, and I’m still a psychologist, too. I actually specialize in neuropsychology, and I work as Director of Psychology in a majestic state psychiatric facility in Kentucky. When I blog about my workplace–especially to post the much-requested spooky pictures I sometimes find–I refer to it as the Old Asylum.
Read more at Susan Vaught’s author website.
Make a comment if you have time as you could win all five Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Finalists. You’ll find the comment link below.