Review of Redwood and Ponytail

Redwood and Ponytail
by K. A. Holt
Middle School    Chronicle    417 pp.
10/19    978-1-4521-7288-0    $18.99

Seventh grader Kate’s (“Ponytail”) life is largely defined by pressure from her mom to become captain of the cheerleading squad and by her friends’ similar expectations; less popular, gangly girl Tam (“Redwood”) has had a freer upbringing. A friendship with a tinge of rebellion (Kate breaks cheerleader tradition by sitting with Tam at lunch) leads to their holding pinkies but not, for a while, being able to talk about what that means, as Kate struggles with whether or not to claim lesbian identity. The verse novel’s narration, with mostly short lines that emphasize the characters’ emotions, alternates between Kate and Tam, with some poems juxtaposing their concurrent thoughts or showing conversations between them. Interspersed observations from the gossipy Greek chorus of Alex, Alyx, and Alexx underscore the constant scrutiny Kate and Tam face from their fellow middle-schoolers — though a late exchange with cheerleader friend Becca suggests that their classmates might be more understanding than they’d thought. The format contributes to an air of drama; Holt takes the girls’ seemingly small-scale concerns, and their larger implications, seriously.

From the January/February 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She is a current member of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee, and has served on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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