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Review of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

adpreview_beasleyGertie’s Leap to Greatness
by Kate Beasley; illus. by Jillian Tamaki
Intermediate    Farrar    250 pp.
10/16    978-0-374-30261-0    $16.99    g

Gertie Reece Foy lives with her great-aunt Rae in coastal Alabama while her kind and loving father, Frank, works on an oil rig. Her mother, Rachel, who left the family when Gertie was a baby, lives across town, but now there’s a for-sale sign on her lawn. Before Rachel moves away, Gertie wants to become the “greatest fifth grader in the whole school, world, and universe” in order to prove something to Rachel and to herself: “She’d show up on her mother’s front porch, gleaming with greatness…and then Rachel Collins would know that Gertie Foy was one-hundred-percent, not-from-concentrate awesome and that she didn’t need a mother anyway. So there.” Standing in Gertie’s way is the rich, prissy new girl at school, whose own mother is waging an environmentalist campaign against oil rigs, and whose ambition for fifth-grade greatness is just as strong as Gertie’s. The busy plot — Gertie resuscitates a frog; she helps Aunt Rae babysit a spirited five-year-old; she thinks her teacher hates her; all her classmates turn against her; she saves the class play; she gets in trouble for walking off with the school secretary’s bowl of chocolates — may not be to everyone’s taste, but slice-of-life fans should enjoy the homespun humor. Personality-rich illustrations by Tamaki (which skew young) help set the scene; the picture of Gertie, triumphant after dispensing with the whole bowl of chocolates, for example, speaks louder than words.

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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