IT’S MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY
The underpinning of this new novel is family and that’s a good thing. Life rarely gives us a perfect one and there are many families in this story to prove my point.
Tough to the core Robinson Hart (Robbie) is in fifth grade. She’s not afraid to pull out her fists if the schoolyard bully teases her. Robbie lives with her African-American grandfather but has no other details about the rest of her family. Jackie is white, and Grandpa either won’t talk about the past or has forgotten due to his deteriorating mental state. When her teacher gives the class a family tree assignment, she refuses to do it since there’s only one branch on her tree.
Written with quiet compassion and understanding, the story will find a place in your heart. It is sad but also hopeful for Robbie (named after Jackie Robinson), Grandpa, and friends new and old.
Spend some time in Vermont with this cast of characters. It’s like a warm bowl of oatmeal and maple syrup. One minor warning: There is some mild language from Grandpa and Robbie but nothing that should keep you from reading this tender story.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2018 PAGE COUNT: 256
THE PLOT (From Amazon):
For as long as Robinson Hart can remember, it’s just been her and Grandpa. He taught her about cars, baseball, and everything else worth knowing. But Grandpa’s memory has been getting bad—so bad that he sometimes can’t even remember Robbie’s name.
She’s sure that she’s making things worse by getting in trouble at school, but she can’t resist using her fists when bullies like Alex Carter make fun of her for not having a mom.
Now she’s stuck in group guidance—and to make things even worse, Alex Carter is there too. There’s no way Robbie’s going to open up about her life to some therapy group, especially not with Alex in the room. Besides, if she told anyone how forgetful Grandpa’s been getting lately, they’d take her away from him. He’s the only family she has—and it’s up to her to keep them together, no matter what.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: JUST LIKE JACKIE
- Each of Robbie’s friends and enemies have story all their own. So strong is each, I’d enjoy reading their story in a future book.
- Robinson is Grandpa’s helper in his auto shop. She can change oil or brake pads like a pro. A great sidelight to her upbringing.
- Alzheimers. The impact it has on a family is both honest and heartfelt.
- Excellent lessons for children who may be thinking their family is not normal. Every family has successes and challenges.
- The special bond between a grandparent and grandchild is vividly portrayed. It’s one we don’t see enough of in MG contemporary stories these days.
I almost wish I could take it back. Pull my fist out of Alex Carter’s face and count to ten instead, like Ms. Gloria taught me. Count to ten, take three deep breaths, or repeat baseball stats until that’s all I can think about—Career leaders. Batting average: Ty Cobb, .366. Hits: Pete Rose, 4,256—until I get calm again. Then maybe Grandpa wouldn’t have to shake his head and go to the principal’s office, and I wouldn’t be such a pain in the butt, like a trailer that’s too heavy for his small frame to tow.
AUTHOR QUOTE: They say that a writer is really writing her first book all her life. For me, that was certainly true. Little bits of Grandpa and Robbie and sugaring and small-town Vermont life have been collecting in me for as long as I can remember and before, and in Just Like Jackie, I really felt like I was writing my way home. I may write another Vermont novel in the future, but my next novel is set in the Hamilton Heights/Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, where I live now and where I taught middle school English for 10 years. I’m excited to share more about it soon! (Read the rest of Lindsey’s thoughts from an interview at ABA).