Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Amanda adores piano lessons at Miss Elder's house. It's only Ernestine, another piano student, whom she can't stand. For her part, Ernestine thinks Amanda is stuck-up and mean. Neither girl, however, understands that her "enemy" is struggling with a private problem: Ernestine is ashamed of being overweight, and Amanda worries, with good reason, about her parents' marriage. Belton's (From Miss Ida's Porch) picturesque novel delicately details the prickly relations between two 10-year-old African American girls during the 1950s. Each girl tells in alternate chapters the story of their conflict, focusing on a piano competition whose winner gets to play for the noted visiting pianist Miss Camille Nickerson. That Miss Nickerson has earned her reputation for recording African Creole music from her childhood in Louisiana allows Belton to explore, unobtrusively and easily, Ernestine and Amanda's own pride in their African American heritage. Lots of texture and perceptive writing (when Amanda finds out her parents are separating, she confides, "I could feel the freezing little feet coming across my shoulders and down into my chest") make this a winner, and readers will be glad to know that Belton is working on another book about Ernestine and Amanda. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
Ten year old Ernestine and Amanda have several things in common; they both take piano lessons from the same teacher, they are both preparing for a piano competition, and they have several friends in common, including the twins, Alicia and Edna. Unfortunately, the thing that they have most in common is a mutual dislike, which is reinforced as their paths cross more and more often. Told in alternating chapters from each girl's point of view, and with touches of humor, the author does a convincing jot of recreating a middle class, African American, city neighborhood of the 1950s, with some realistic problems and pleasures relating to families and friends.
Children's Literature - Rebecca Joseph
Ernestine and Amanda, our two narrators, are African-American girls growing up in the 1950s in the southern United States. In each chapter, which equals a week of their summer vacation, each girl relates her experiences before, during, and after going to summer camp. Each girl's family has a special reason for sending its daughter to camp (Ernestine to an all African-American girls' camp and Amanda to an integrated camp in the North). Each girl learns a lot about herself and about life during her event-filled summer. A quick, fun read, this novel will entertain children of all races.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Told in the alternating voices of two fifth-grade girls, this novel gives readers a glimpse into the middle-class black world of the 1950s. Both piano students of Miss Elder, Amanda and Ernestine circle each other warily throughout the book and compete for the friendship of a fellow student because they misperceive one another's intentions and motivations. Each girl in alternating chapters gives her perspective, often on the same event, so that readers see what Ernestine and Amanda don't: how very much they actually have in common. In the end, it is not clear if they'll ever become close friends, but that possibility is held out because of their love of music and their pride in who they are. This is a gentle, sweet, simply told tale of family, community, and friendship. It's also a book that will enhance any library's collection.-Carol Jones Collins, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ
In this book in the Ernestine & Amanda series, the friends take alternating chapters to tell the story of their summer vacations spent at vastly different camps. Both are sent away while their parents deal with family problems, and neither is thrilled by the prospect. Amanda goes to Camp Castle, an upscale camp where she is one of the few African-Americans, while Ernestine goes to Hilltop, an all-black camp. Amanda, occasionally mean-spirited, has the harder road: Her parents are splitting up, and she gradually realizes she is not as accepted as she had thought among her white campmates. The format allows readers to compare aspects of the girls' experiences and personalities; Belton (From Miss Ida's Porch, 1993, etc.) never makes the parallels and contrasts too broad or obvious. Aside from independent reading, the novel translates well to classroom use, offering interesting issues (e.g., the pros and cons of integration and segregation), thoughtfully treated.