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Review of Izzy Kline Has Butterflies: A Novel in Small Moments

Izzy Kline Has Butterflies: A Novel in Small Moments
by Beth Ain
Intermediate    Random    167 pp.
3/17    978-0-399-55080-5    $16.99
Library ed.  978-0-399-55081-2    $19.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-399-55082-9    $10.99

Fourth grader Izzy has her share of common woes — mean girls, school anxiety, auditions for a play, a dad with a new girlfriend, and an older brother who is retreating into what she calls “the teenage nation.” She’s also coping with the ins and outs of a new friendship, and one in which that new friend seems to have a secret (she’s a cancer survivor). Our window into Izzy’s world is a series of short first-person prose poems, in a style that seems digressive but that beautifully ties everything together in the end. The episodes can be self-contained: the school picture disaster would make a fine standalone vignette. But they add up to a well-rounded portrait of a thoughtful and unique main character. This works because Ain makes use of all a poet’s tools — repetition, rhythm, rhyme, distillation, silence, and ambiguity. On the playground spinner, “Everything is blurry as we spin. / Blurry wall ball game. / Blurry old best friends. / Blurry teacher’s aides yelling at / blurry kids to remember their coats.” Old best friends? That plot point builds while we’re not looking. The setting is contemporary, although the all-school immersion in Free to Be…You and Me provides a retro frame of reference. The authenticity of Izzy’s voice demonstrates that fourth grade is fourth grade, no matter when.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Sarah Ellis

Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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