Watts, author of the picture book Keepers, displays sure footing in this strong foray into middle-grade fiction, about a 12-year-old black girl from Virginia navigating significant life changes. Set over the course of a year starting in the summer of 1963, Watts's epistolary novel consists of candid letters Kizzy writes to Miss Anderson, her soon-to-be teacher at a newly integrated public school, and journal entries addressed to her teacher during the school year. Kizzy is apprehensive about sharing a classroom with white students: she wears the hand-me-down dresses of one white girl, and another classmate is responsible for the accident that left her with a prominent facial scar. Prevalent racism threatens Kizzy's aspirations, as well as those of her athletic older brother, but with help from within and without--as well as the support of her beloved border collie, Shag--Kizzy prevails, and does so triumphantly. Watts offers an evenhanded, insightful evocation of a turbulent time and of a girl's perseverance, with Kizzy's writing exposing both widespread prejudice and the determination and will that countered it. Ages 9-12. (Aug.)[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-8--During the summer of 1963,12-year-old Kizzy Ann Stamps writes letters to the teacher who will instruct her at the new, integrated school. Kizzy is forthright in her first letter; she does not want to go to a school with white children. Miss Anderson is understanding, and as Kizzy begins to trust her, she shares stories about Shag, the stray border collie her family adopted. Through her love of Shag, Kizzy reveals what she understands about integrated life. When classmates tell her that blacks can't participate in dog shows, she writes, "I made a mistake and let down my guard. I let them in, and now I feel a fool." Kizzy is sensitive yet sassy, and she bounces back with fierce determination. Her brother, on the other hand, suffers from discrimination at the upper school. When he causes trouble, a neighboring white boy fixes the problem, and Kizzy learns to see each person as an individual. Yes, there are whites who hate her, but she learns to trust herself and her feelings. Some passages go on about border collie herding, but they don't overwhelm the novel. This is a touching story with a sharp and insightful protagonist. One hopes that it will find its way into the hands of feisty girls looking for a strong role model.--Pamela Schembri, Newburgh Enlarged City Schools, NY[Page 113]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.