Thursday, March 15, 2018

Just Like Jackie Knocked My Whiskers Off

I realize my whiskers are not as fabulous as those of the cats (a source of much personal dissatisfaction!) but they are still big enough to catch the dog tears that were running down my rather wide snout as this book neared its end.  Just Like Jackie is a debut novel, masterfully written by Lindsey Stoddard.  Although I secretly think it might have been written by her dog.

When we first meet Robinson Hart she has just bopped Alex Carter's nose.  He is one of the worst kinds of bullies-an angel in front of the teachers but sneaky and mean when they turn their backs.  He has pushed Robbie too far, although to be fair it doesn't take much.  She seems to be always ready for a fight.  Her anger turns to fear when the school office calls her grandfather in.  What if they notice that he's confused and befuddled?  He always seems fine in the morning, but now it's the afternoon and his brain just doesn't work right later in the day.  He is all she has.

So let's talk about the characters.  There's Derek the best friend, a prime target for Alex's bullying.  You've already met Alex.  Ms. Gloria is the teacher who offers help and counseling - Robbie is assigned to see her often during the week. Candace and Oscar also see Ms. Gloria, and could be allies for Robbie if she could just let her guard down.  Grandpa is Robbie's most important person, he is her everything.  Harold is also important, he works at Grandpa's garage.  He and his partner Paul are adopting a baby, May.  Famous baseball player Jackie Robinson is a peripheral character.  As Robbie's namesake, he is an example of strength and character.

I see Mom on the couch, snuggling with one of the cats.  It makes me feel itchy and anxious, and I am having trouble concentrating.  At least it is distracting Mom so she doesn't see that I've got her laptop.  I'm going to just give you a few more tantalizing details so you realize that you really, really want to read this book.  You will be glad you did.
Not my family tree, just an example!!

Robbie's class is assigned a family tree project.  Most of the kids are super excited, but Robbie is not.  She knows nothing about any of her family, except that her mother died when she was born.  All she knows is Grandpa, and he closes up tight as a drum when she asks any questions.  Now that he's getting all confused she's afraid she'll never find out about her mother, or anyone else.  It turns out that she's not the only one upset about the project.  Candace and Oscar don't know where to begin either, but the biggest surprise is that Alex the bully is equally troubled.  All four end up in a group with Ms. Gloria, where many secrets are revealed.  As the deadline for the family tree assignment nears, exciting and dramatic things happen.  This is where the whiskers come in.

The cat is showing off her long whiskers on the couch as she gets all that undeserved attention.  Well, she can't read, so she can't feel the worry, and sorrow, and anger and acceptance that makes my eyes water as I follow Robbie through this book.  And therefore she can't experience the ultimate triumph of love and understanding, and the heartwarming finale when Robbie redefines what family means.  So as tears get lodged in my short and stubby whiskers I am an active participant in the wonder of a good story that expands my own world.  The cat may be content but I am enlightened.

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