Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Historical Fiction
What did you like about the book? 11-year-old Josie has lived with her grandfather since her mother died two years earlier. Lately Grandpa has been acting a little unusual – feeding squirrels, blurting out random words at awkward moments, and disappearing at odd times. Josie finds stashes of cash in unexpected places, and also learns that their mortgage and utility bills are going unpaid. Her teacher, the multi-talented Mrs. Blyth-Barrow, suspects things are amiss and tries to help Josie and Grandpa, but Josie is afraid of losing her one family member if Mrs. B-B intervenes. So she enlists the help of her best friend Elwyn “Winky” Wheaton, a legally blind boy who is obsessed with baseball, to come up with ways of raising money. None of their schemes work out, and their friendship is tested when Winky’s baseball idol Joe Viola comes to town to play for the local minor league team and Josie is blamed for contributing to his slump. Soon Josie hits on the idea that Joe is in fact her long lost father, and thus maybe the solution to all her problems. He does end up being a big part of that solution, but not in the way Josie expects.
Josie’s first person account is heartwarming and funny; her voice is believable when describing all the seemingly unbelievable things that befall her and her grandfather. She is a spunky, persistent, likeable main character, but it is the cast of secondary characters in the town of Hamburg, Maine, that really make this book stand out from other similar stories. Locales such as the town jail, the bank, and Moody’s diner, and the people who work there, paint a realistic and entertaining portrait of small-town life. From Joe Viola and his girlfriend Tina Taylor to Mrs. B- B and Mr. Mee the school librarian, there are many well-intentioned grownups trying to help Josie through her emergency of life, and readers will be rooting for all of them.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Well, it was hard for me to classify a book set in 1977 as historical fiction!
To whom would you recommend this book? Upper elementary readers of books like Small as an Elephant, Rain Reign, etc., featuring strong main characters trying to solve their own very grown-up problems in their own way.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Leigh King, Lincoln St. Elementary School, Northborough, Mass.
Date of review: 3/13/2020