Secret Friends

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Overview

On the first day of secondary school, Lucy calls Rafaella "Earwig" because her name sounds funny and her ears stick out. She regrets her words as soon as they leave her mouth, but now all the other kids are teasing Rafaella, too. Afraid she'll be branded as unpopular, Lucy finds herself avoiding Rafaella at school, but after school a secret friendship develops. By the time Lucy decides to bring their friendship out into the open, a tragedy has occurred: one that may have been avoided if only Lucy had the guts to ...
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Overview

On the first day of secondary school, Lucy calls Rafaella "Earwig" because her name sounds funny and her ears stick out. She regrets her words as soon as they leave her mouth, but now all the other kids are teasing Rafaella, too. Afraid she'll be branded as unpopular, Lucy finds herself avoiding Rafaella at school, but after school a secret friendship develops. By the time Lucy decides to bring their friendship out into the open, a tragedy has occurred: one that may have been avoided if only Lucy had the guts to stand up for her friend. This is a novel which will make readers want to challenge peer pressure and look beyond appearances.

Although the other girls at middle school make fun of Rafaella and she avoids her when they are around, Lucy gradually gets to know her and her "foreign" family and is devastated when she learns the result of all the teasing Rafaella has endured.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The characters and situations in this novella will likely be painfully familiar to teenage readers. On her first day at Dale Road Middle School, narrator Lucy meets Rafaella, a girl who is shunned by the rest of the class ("What you noticed straight away was her ears. They were large, and stuck out away from her head like bats' ears"). Lucy, on the fringe of the popular crowd, invents the nickname Earwig--and foreshadows subsequent tragic developments ("I'm going to regret that moment till the day I die"). When Rafaella invites Lucy home for tea, Lucy is too shocked to decline the invitation. In spite of herself, Lucy enjoys Rafaella's company and is intrigued by her exotic family ("Rafaella's parents seemed like magic people to me, and their house was an Aladdin's cave, full of treasures whose meaning I couldn't understand"). The aura of impending doom grows as the camaraderie between the girls strengthens. Rafaella's brother accuses Lucy of being "one of those stuck up kids"--another sign of what lies ahead. In 10 brief chapters, Laird (Kiss the Dust) crystallizes the mixture of insecurity, grief and guilt suffered by a young teen sensitive enough to understand another child's pain, but not strong enough to stop the chain of events. Although readers may wish for more details about the family lives of both girls, the few unanswered questions are surmounted by the author's ability to keep the novel within Lucy's purview--and by its realistic resolution. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Linnea Hendrickson
Lucy didn't mean to start the teasing. Both she and Rafaella were outsiders and new girls, but because Lucy wanted to be popular, she avoided Rafaella at school, although they were friendly when she visited Rafaella and her warm "foreign" family at home. When disaster struck, Lucy was overwhelmed with guilt over her treatment of her friend and had to learn to deal with the consequences of her behavior. "What's worse, guilt or grief?" she asked herself. "I felt both, deep down inside, but it was the guilt that really hurt." The brief story is skillfully and sensitively told. Although structurally simpler, it is reminiscent of Eleanor Estes's classic The Hundred Dresses, with its theme that sometimes it is too late to say, "I'm sorry." This will be a useful book in situations where teasing is a problem. 1999 (orig.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Without meaning to, Lucy tags Rafaella with the nickname Earwig on her very first day at Dale Road Middle School, and the name sticks. Though Lucy knows she has hurt this stranger, she is too passive to stop the taunting right away, and the girl's ears do stick out. Despite the teasing, Rafaella's initial aloofness, and Lucy's desire to be in with the popular crowd, Lucy is fascinated with the new girl and intrigued by her family, who come from an unidentified foreign country. The girls become secret friends during the hours away from school. Then, just before Christmas, Rafaella tells Lucy that she'll have a surprise for her after the holiday. It is only after Rafaella unexpectedly dies during cosmetic surgery that Lucy realizes how much she likes Rafaella and how badly she has treated her. Lucy's shame and grief come across in spite of the book's lack of engaging conversation, and though the plot is a bit predictable, the message of being proud of and standing up for your friends is no less powerful. The book's brevity and lack of detail might effect how well it captures the attention of the intended audience, but the characters and theme are memorable. Laird's story makes a good companion piece to Mary Downing Hahn's longer and more fleshed-out story on the same theme, Daphne's Book (Clarion, 1983).-Linda Bindner, formerly at Athens Clarke County Library, GA
Kirkus Reviews
From Laird (Kiss the Dust, 1992, etc.), a brief tale of a friend quickly won and lost to a sudden, unexpected death in this British novella.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399233340
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/15/1999
  • Edition description: 1 AMER ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 71
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 660L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2002

    Two thumbs up!

    Secret Friends is very sad, yet it also makes you think about your life and other people you don't want to hang out with in public. It was the best. I liked the characters and seeing how the families were different and alike. I wish there was a second book.

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