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School Library Journal:

Gr 4–6— Verbena’s fifth-grade year has been miserable. She feels mean, moody, and self-conscious but doesn’t know why. When she stumbles onto the fact that she is adopted and that her birth father is incarcerated for murder, she decides that the obvious explanation is that she takes after him. She also learns that she was exposed fetally to alcohol, which explains her small size and learning problems. She finds a diversion when she meets Pooch, a boy vacationing in her small town in the Catskills, and convinces him she’s a ghost. In the aftermath of a crisis that puts Pooch’s life in jeopardy, Verbie begins to repair her relationship with her mother and to come to terms with who she is as a person. Children who have suddenly noticed that their parents are the most embarrassing people on earth; who have been unable to keep from saying awful, hurtful things; or just realized that life isn’t as simple as it once seemed will relate to Verbie’s emotional discomfort. The other aspects of her life, including no mention of cell phones and the like, may seem less familiar. Pooch is likable, self-sufficient due to minimal parenting, and yet responsive to nurturing. The ending wraps things up a little too neatly, but all readers, at times, need reassurance that the difficult periods in life will pass. Despite the girly cover, there are many passages that could jump-start a booktalk and get this into kids’ hands.—Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL –Faith Brautigam (Reviewed June 1, 2010) (School Library Journal, vol 56, issue 6, p122)

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