Abby, Tried and True  – Donna Gephart

Abby, Tried and True  – Donna Gephart. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9781534440890

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

 Genre: realistic fiction

 What did you like about the book?  12-year-old Abby Braverman thinks nothing can be worse than losing her best friend and next door neighbor Cat, who is moving with her mother to Israel.  Abby is happy at home with her Mom Rachel and Mama Dee, her older brother Paul, and their dog Miss Lucy, as well as her confidant and pet turtle Fudge.  But she doesn’t have any other real friends at school, and struggles with anxiety as she faces the new school year.  She is further upset to see that the new residents of Cat’s house include a boy about her age.  “New Boy” is good-looking and well-dressed and seems athletic, so she assumes they will not be friends.  And on top of all these social challenges, Abby’s family is soon devastated by the news that Paul has been diagnosed with testicular cancer.  But even as Abby and her moms rally to support Paul through his difficult treatment, Abby is bolstered by her ongoing overseas friendship with Cat, and her burgeoning relationship with Conrad, the boy next door.  As they bond over their mutual love of nature and poetry and plan the perfect Valentine’s Day outing together, Abby grows stronger and braver with every challenge she faces. 

Readers will really feel empathy for Abby as she is confronted with so many things in one year.  The cozy family scenes, notably the affection between the siblings and the warmth of their loving, extended family (who come together to celebrate Jewish holidays and offer support through Paul’s treatment) are all so appealing.  The book is also noteworthy in the way that it normalizes Paul’s type of cancer (fair warning that there are a lot of nut jokes) and two-mom families with humor and grace.  A note from the author about why she wrote a story about a family dealing with a cancer diagnosis will provide some context.

 To whom would you recommend this book? Realistic fiction readers in grade 5 and up 

Who should buy this book? Public, elementary and middle school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Fiction

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 6/16/2021

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