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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess, by Shari Green. Pajama Press, 2017. $12.95 ages 9 and up

"There are so many stories
of extravagant kindness
extravagant bravery.
I'd like my life
to tell such a story.
I don't expect I'll come across
any princesses
or evil wizards
- although
There's already a rainbow goddess
in my story ... "

Why on earth does Macy's mother thinks she needs to get married? Why must they sell their house? Now that sixth grade is soon over, things should be looking up. Instead, Macy's mother is going to marry Alan which means Macy is also acquiring six-year-old twins as stepsisters. Can things get worse? Apparently,  they can.

Mr. Tanaka, her teacher, is very excited about a final assigned project dealing with genealogy. He wants his students to research their family and make a presentation to the class. Macy's family is very small - Mom, Uncle Caleb, Gran and Grampa. The assignment precipitates a big fight with her best friend, Olivia.

"Do you even know
your dad's name?
Olivia asks me at recess
while a bunch of sixth-graders
kill time
at the edge
of the school playground.

Olivia's been my best friend
since I came to Hamilton Elementary
in second grade
from Braeside, the School
for the Deaf.
She lives only a block
from me
and of all the kids in my class
she knows the most sign language.
But sometimes
she says something dumb
- like asking if I know
my father's name -
and the other kids

It's enough to send Macy into a fit of anger. Before she knows it, she has alienated that friend and finds herself facing detention for her actions. As if that isn't quite enough, she soon discovers that her mother has offered her services in helping their neighbor pack up her many books as she prepares to move into assisted living. Iris is 86, and doesn't know any sign language. Between the two, they fashion a way to communicate through beautiful notes and a mutual love of books. Both are lonely and in need of a friend.

Their developing relationship is very special. Macy's first person narration makes it so real and immediate. We feel all that she is feeling as she comes to terms with the many changes in her life. Their written conversations (in personal journals) pass back and forth as needed. Their notes concerning the books they love are lively and quite lovely.

"I learned much from Anne -
that the hard things in life
sometimes turn out to be the very things
that equip us for what comes next ...
that there's nothing so precious
as a kindred spirit
and a place to call home ...
that we need one another ...
that words are magical ...
and that it's possible - more than possible -
to survive the depths of despair
and come out strong."

 This verse novel is admirable. Its wonderful characters, memorable plot, perfectly chosen language and form, familiar settings, unwelcome changes and humor offer readers a very personal look at a young girl struggling to find her way. She does it with the help of family and friends. The stories, notes and cookies that Macy shares with her 'rainbow goddess' leads to a very unexpected friendship - and the heart of this very special book.

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