A good-luck charm exerts a positive effect on the lives of four seventh graders at a Chicago magnet school for the performing arts. Cynical and lonely since her mother's untimely death, 13-year-old Bette feels "empty and still, inside and out" until she finds a charm embossed with an angel. Gradually Bette starts singing again, earns a role in the school musical and addresses her grief. Her angry, disillusioned classmate Joe lives in a small apartment with his overworked, sickly single mom. Lately Joe's resorted to extorting cash from Andy, a timid, wealthier classmate, to supplement his income. Then Joe takes Bette's charm from her desk, and his luck changes as he channels his energy into designing sets for the musical. In a gesture of recompense, Joe gives the talisman to Andy, who passes it to his reclusive, asthmatic sister, Vivi, who dreads returning to school since gaining weight from her medications. Armed with the charm, Vivi recasts her self-image and accompanies Andy in the musical. Tracking the school production from fall tryouts through the final performance, the plot shifts in third-person voice from Bette to Joe to Andy and Vivi as they learn to believe in themselves, one another and the angel in their pockets. As their lives intersect, four credible, contemporary, creative preteens find faith to move forward.Â (Fiction. 10-14)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Cooper (The Golden Rule) composes a quiet story set in Chicago that leavens the realistic problems of four near-teenagers with a hint of magic. Bette is grieving over her mother's death and her sister's recent departure for college ("n the part of her where belief might have been there was only a void") when she finds a coin with an angel on it. Soon after, things take a turn for the better. Then Bette's hostile classmate, Joe, who is dealing with economic stress at home, steals the coin, and the luck seems to transfer to him. Finally, fraternal twins Vivi and Andy, also from Bette's school, receive the talisman. All four seventh-graders are artistic, yet are bogged down by self-pity and pain. When a school musical and several unexpected visitors draw them out, they are given the chance to recover and shine. Cooper's introspective novel gently circles around themes of overcoming pain and applying one's talents. The characters and setting are lovingly crafted, and readers will be left contemplating the roles of luck, magic, and inner strength in the kids' transformed lives. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-8--Bette is still grieving over the death of her mother two years earlier and is struggling with other changes in her life when she finds a coin with an angel engraved on it. Her life begins to improve when a mysterious woman moves into her building, helping her work through her feelings. The coin then falls into the hands of three other classmates, and they find their lives changing for the better while meeting ethereal and enigmatic characters. The children all go to a performing-arts school and are preparing for a major production. Bette hasn't sung since her mother died, but finds the courage to sing again. After troubled and angry Joe gets his hands on the coin, he meets Mike, who encourages him to help build the sets for the play. Twins Vivi and Minkus also experience growth and somewhat miraculous occurrences after possessing the coin--Vivi's asthma improves enough for her to return to school, and Minkus develops the confidence to stand up to Joe's bullying. The children form an unlikely foursome, and each one develops as a character and a friend, though perhaps the resolutions to their issues are too simplistic. Vivi's segment seems a bit didactic, and the chapters about Joe are somewhat repetitive. Also, the angel theme is perhaps too subtle, which may cause all but the most astute readers to miss the connection. While Cooper's foray into middle-grade fiction could be enjoyed by readers wanting a story about angels or friendship, those seeking more substance may want to keep looking.--Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA[Page 158]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.