Middle graders will laugh and cry with thirteen-year-old Vanessa Martin as she tries to be like Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America.
In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin's real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with a mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa's view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn't need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty.
"It's such an honor to be the focal point of this wonderful book! Without a doubt, it will be inspiring to a new generation of young, talented girls well on their way to promising careers." Vanessa Williams, Multi-Platinum Recording Artist, New York Times Best-Selling Author, Fashion Designer and star of Television, Film and the Broadway Stage
"Like Vanessa has it all and then some! Gritty, poetic, emotionally true, Tami Charles wrings out every hope, every stumble and every triumph of a girl on an uneasy road to possessing her self, her strength and her own beauty. An unforgettable debut." Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven
♦ "This debut is a treasure: a gift to every middle school girl who ever felt unpretty, unloved, and trapped by her circumstances."— Kirkus Reviews STARRED REVIEW
♦ "Charles evades the clichés and imbues Vanessa with an inner life that's so real and personal it's hard to deny the charm, heartbreak, and triumph of her story. . . . Superb."— Booklist STARRED REVIEW
♦ "Like Vanessa is an emotionally potent, engaging young adult story with a heroine whom it is impossible not to root for. The life lessons that Nessy learns are relevant and worthwhile for everyone."— Foreword Reviews STARRED REVIEW
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||10 - 14 Years|
About the Author
Tami Charles is a former teacher and full-time author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made it her mission to introduce her students to all types of literature, but especially diverse books. While it was refreshing to see a better selection than what she was accustomed to as a child, Tami felt there weren’t nearly as many diverse books as she’d hoped for. It was then that she decided to reignite her passion for writing. Tami is the author of the middle grade novel Like Vanessa (2018) and the picture book Freedom Soup (Candlewick Press, 2019).
Read an Excerpt
Fifty Stinkin’ Years
Excerpted from "Like Vanessa"
Copyright © 2018 Tami Charles.
Excerpted by permission of Charlesbridge.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's 1983 and Vanessa Williams is crowned Miss America. For thirteen-year-old Vanessa Martin this is a great milestone, Vanessa Williams is her number one example. Vanessa wants to be just like her idol and is thrilled women of color finally have a chance to win. To make matters even better, her high school is hosting a beauty pageant. Vanessa doesn't think she'll stand a chance though. She doesn't have beautiful clothes, her father doesn't want his daughter to have anything to do with pageants and her grandfather is supportive, but he's also an alcoholic struggling to stay sober enough to keep the household going. They can barely make ends meet. Vanessa's teacher sees something in her pupil and doesn't give up, she encourages Vanessa to enter until she says yes. While preparing for the pageant Vanessa makes some life changing discoveries. There's a family secret she's trying to uncover, she learns what friendship really means and that it's all right to let someone be kind to you every once in a while. She also discovers the true meaning of beauty and therefore her confidence is starting to grow. She has a long way to go, but starts to think that maybe signing up for the school's beauty contest hasn't been such a bad idea after all. Is she right and will it bring Vanessa something positive and worthwhile? Like Vanessa is a fantastic story about self-worth, beauty, family, friendship and opportunities. Vanessa is a sweet girl. She doesn't feel good about herself though. She has a magical voice, but she doesn't like to be in the spotlight, so she never lets herself shine. She hides behind oversized clothes and doesn't know how gorgeous she really is, because she thinks she isn't slim enough and her skin isn't light enough. She tries to be someone she's not before discovering that the person looking at her in the mirror is actually worth getting to know. She's incredibly special, she just has to start recognizing her own capabilities, she's kind and pretty, she writes stunning poetry, she can sing and she's super smart. She has the looks, the voice and the brains, she just has to start believing in them. Every step of her journey is fabulously described and I was eager to find out more about the contest, Vanessa's choices and her ambitions. She has such a lovely bright personality, she's a main character that will always have a place in my heart. Tami Charles skillfully describes what it's like for Vanessa to deal with family issues, money problems and a lack of self-confidence. Vanessa slowly gets the tools to make some changes in her life. She's a smart girl with plenty of talents and she doesn't see how amazing she is. I kept hoping she'd discover that she's as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside and that she'd find some much deserved happiness. I was rooting for this marvelous girl the entire time I was reading her story. I love how Tami Charles makes her main character come to life and greatly admired both her abilities to show every single layer of Vanessa's character and the personality itself. Like Vanessa is a brilliant book that will stay with me for a long time.
What was it like for young African-American girls to see Vanessa Williams crowned Miss America in 1983? Charles, drawing from her own beauty pageant experience, gives us 13-year-old strong, believable Vanessa (“Nessy) who wants top dream big, but can’t imagine her own darker-than-Williams’ skin will ever be considered beautiful. She deals with a physically absent mother and an emotionally-absent father, the struggle to survive on limited resources, middle grade friends and enemies, racism, and all the usual middle school self-doubt. I love Nessy’s big heart, the way she grows and changes and is always supported by a loving grandfather and cousin. Young readers will appreciate her efforts to accept herself as she works toward winning her middle school beauty pageant.