Reviews for Nikki & Deja

Booklist Reviews 2008 February #1
Few early chapter books feature African American characters, and English, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book author, addresses this dearth with a sweet, realistic friendship story. Next-door neighbors Nikki and Deja are as close as sisters, but the two third-graders have moments of sadness and frustration with each other, especially after Deja starts a drill club at school, and Nikki has trouble keeping up with the dance routines. A new girl, Antonia, adds further tension, but the friends finally work through their hurt feelings and make up. English writes with a basic vocabulary and repetitive, easy-to-grasp sentence rhythms well tuned to the abilities of early-elementary-school readers, and children will quickly connect with the distinctive characters and authentically drawn situations and emotions, especially the tumult of feeling at odds with a best friend. Freeman's full-page, black-and-white artwork adds to the book's appeal with cheerful drawings of the two friends and their everyday episodes. A strong start to what will hopefully become a series of titles about Nikki and Deja. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Spring
African American third-graders Nikki and Deja are best friends who do everything together until new-girl Antonia comes between them. The story's familiar theme is bolstered by some fresh details (e.g., Nikki stresses out over drill club try-outs because she realizes she "has no rhythm"). Digital black-and-white illustrations show the girls' personalities and emotions. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 December #1
Nikki and Deja are best friends, next-door neighbors and schoolmates. They do almost everything together, from watching cartoons and sitting on the porch, to going shopping, making cookies and playing at recess. But when a new neighbor moves in down the street, things may be about to change. Antonia has enviable possessions--a canopy bed and a trampoline--and is in their class at school. When the three play jump rope together, Antonia's too bossy, but then a misunderstanding occurs at the flea market and Nikki and Deja struggle over the formation of a drill team. It looks as though the friendship may be over, but in an elementary-school world of clubs, competition and jealousy, it's up to Nikki and Deja to sort things out. Accessible writing, authentic characters, an easy-to-identify-with plot and Freeman's appealing black-and-white illustrations come together smoothly in this straightforward friendship tale. English nicely fills an underdeveloped area--this is a first-chapter book featuring African-American girls, and race is presented as an attribute of the characters rather than as an issue. (Fiction. 7-10) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 December #2

In her first chapter book, English (Francie ) perceptively explores the undercurrent of insecurity and rivalry that threaten two African-American girls' friendship. When Antonia moves into the neighborhood and tries to boss two best friends around, Deja elects to start a drill club and pointedly not invite the new girl. But when Nikki messes up at drill club tryouts, she anticipates rejection and hooks up with Antonia, who proposes an exclusionary club of their own. The plot is secondary to the authentically rendered backdrops of sidewalk games, the third-grade classroom and Saturday morning TV-watching. Better still are the author's careful tabs on the daily fluctuations in the girls' emotional lives: "She hadn't meant to say that.... And since she can't put the words back into her mouth, she's glad she's in front of her house because then she gets to stomp up her stairs and slam the door behind her." More probing than many chapter books, this title delivers the satisfaction of a full-length novel. Final art not seen by PW . Ages 6-10. (Dec.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 June

Gr 1-4 --As in Hot Day on Abbott Avenue (Clarion, 2004), English explores the intricacies of childhood friendship, capturing the dialogue and experiences with near-perfect tone. Nikki is a budding writer, and Deja wants to be a decorator; the two third graders are best friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, when a new girl moves to their street, this friendship begins to unravel. Antonia isn't very friendly, so in retaliation, Nikki and Deja form an exclusive drill team club and vow to keep her out. When it comes to light that Nikki has no rhythm, the girls' insecurities come to a head, fueled by Antonia's manipulations. Eventually, Nikki and Deja realize how much they miss each other and make up. Nikki and Deja are still learning how to navigate complex relationships, alternating between codependence, jealousy, and stubbornness. And like most youngsters when faced with new emotional experiences, they don't always behave in the best manner possible. The story balances all this angst with humor: a scene in which the girls discover that their teacher actually--gasp!--shops at the same grocery store is priceless. Freeman's black-and-white illustrations depict a multicultural cast. Put this into readers' hands and they'll most likely see the ups and downs of their own friendships reflected.--Laura Lutz, Queens Borough Public Library, NY

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