In a thoughtful story about making the best of unwanted change, 12-year-old Kate Marino adores her family’s Hudson Valley farmhouse, “Big Red,” and it’s inconceivable that her parents have decided to sell it with little explanation. Kate may not be able to stay at her current school or participate in an upcoming dance competition. Instead of sulking, Kate gets creative, making intricate shoebox dioramas to preserve her memories at Big Red while carrying out giggle-worthy schemes to drive away potential buyers, aided by her imaginative friend Naveen. But the realtor gets wise to Kate’s plots, and soon the house is on its way to being sold. Altebrando (The Battle of Darcy Lane) packs the pages with details about Big Red’s quirks and Kate’s memories growing up there, making it easy for readers to see how much it means to her. The financial and other pressures affecting Kate’s parents also register strongly, and Altebrando’s conclusion is hopeful and realistic without coming across as too pat. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: David Dunton, Harvey Klinger. (Apr.)
"Humor will reel readers in, but heart will keep them riveted."
Gordon Korman, New York Times bestselling author of the Swindle series
"Charming, touching, and laugh-out-loud funny."
Sarah Mlynowski, New York Times bestselling author of the Whatever After series
“Altebrando aptly captures the essence of being twelve years old: fraught friendships, confusing feelings, and glimmers of so much more on the horizon. Kate's voice is honest and authentic
A thoughtful middle grade novel that will have broad appeal.”
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Kate lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her parents in a house full of quirky character and warm memories. The house is known to everyone around town as Big Red. When her parents, under financial duress, put Big Red on the market, Kate tries to sabotage the realtor's open houses in hopes of being able to stay there. Meanwhile, she starts making dioramas of the house's rooms, as a way of ensuring she can hold onto these meaningful spaces. Bonaddio's black-and-white drawings depict many of these dioramas. Altebrando aptly captures the essence of being 12 years old: fraught friendships, confusing feelings (is this what a crush feels like or not?), and glimmers of so much more on the horizon. Kate's voice is honest and authentic, as she toes the line between needy kid and independent young adult. While Kate's relationships with her two best friends, Stella and Naveen, are a bit too thinly developed, her relationship with her parents is nuanced and three-dimensional, as is the relationship between her mom and dad, as seen through Kate's eyes. Many readers will relate to the girl's initial resistance to moving, to her gradual acceptance of it, and to her ultimate conclusion that "Change is hard. Until it's not." VERDICT A thoughtful middle grade novel that will have broad appeal.—Jenna Lanterman, formerly at The Calhoun School and Mary McDowell Friends School, New York City
When 12-year-old Kate learns that her beloved home, Big Red, is going on the market, she is determined to stop the sale—or at least postpone it until her first dance competition.Kate tells the story in believable preteen prose, interspersed with texts to her best friends, Stella and Naveen. "Grabbing my phone and falling onto the bed, I texted Stella, My life is over. She wrote back, ??? I tapped out, Selling Big Red." After seeking ideas from brainy Naveen, Kate persuades him and Stella to help sabotage sales to prospective buyers. There are several very funny scenes centered on efforts to use bad smells (Naveen has placed "fecal matter" and "spoiled food" at the top of his list of resources) and annoying noises—before the real estate agent catches on. By this time, readers will love Kate enough to keep reading. It's a bit of a stretch to believe that Kate's parents show little empathy about Kate's dancing dilemma, since they met each other through their own musicianship and still live alternative, arts-oriented lifestyles. However, their struggles and triumphs, along with their daughter's, augment the story—as do the dioramas that Kate creates, first as a school assignment and then as her own, self-discovered therapy. Family finances, transcendence via the arts, pet death and adult clinical depression are all gently eased into a pleasing tale. Final illustrations not seen. Altebrando neatly integrates humor and poignancy into a middle-grade tale of change. (Fiction. 8-12)