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Middle Grade Fiction 132
Make new friends, but keep the old
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In fifth grade, Nora, Bea, and Millie were inseparable friends who attended the Shire School, a hippyish sort of school on Manhattan's Upper East Side. They spend a lot of time hanging out together, making fortune tellers with their Write Your Destiny marker set. After a falling out of a birthday party to which not all of them were invited, the school shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic. In the time since then, Nora's parents divorced, and she and her sister Penelope moved with they mother. She's now friends with Jade and Esme, who care more about clothes and boys than Nora does. Bea's Aunt Clare moved in with her family because of her uncontrolled epilepsy, and Bea's mother is stressed dealing with Clare's seizures. Her twin, Danny, seems to be the reason her new best friend, Sam, hangs around her. Millie has the biggest change of all; her father was an apartment building superintendent, but took a job in the suburbs running a cottage community by the lake that is transitioning from being for summer visitors to accomodating more year round ones. When Bea is trying to organize her room for the new school year, she finds one of the fortune tellers the girls made; the other girls find them as well, in odd places and at odd times. Nora and Bea even get a box of them from one of their teachers, Ms. Steinhaur. Not only that, but the fortune tellers seem to be giving them messages! When a letter comes from the Shire School announcing that there are changes in the works, the girls reconnect and talk about the fortune tellers and vow to get together. After Bea skips school and attends a meeting, she offers to put together a fund raiser to try to save the school. She only has a week, but her old friends band together to help. Will the three be able to save the school and get to the root cause of the problems with their friendship?

Good Points
At first, I thought this would revisit the three friends in Greenwald's 2010 Sweet Treats and Secret Crushes, which is my favorite Valentine's Day book! The covers seem to go together. Late elementary school can be filled with so much drama, and it is completely realistic that the three girls might have ended their friendship over a birthday party invitation. I'm still not sure why Jamie and Pam stopped being my friend in fourth grade, but those trios are hard to sustain. I did appreciate the information at the end about why the whole event occurred. Elementary school engender very strong feelings, so I can see why the girls were willing to go to such effort to try to save their school. The fortune tellers are a fun way to introduce magic to the plot; who hasn't made at least one of those at some point? There are a lot of good incidental characters, like Rodge at Nora's cottage community, who is struggling to start school when his family has to get their food from a local pantry, and he's worried about being made fun of. The use of social media to keep track of former friends is an interesting inclusion and will definitely resonate with young readers. Greenwald's books are super popular with my students, and they will be thrilled to see this new title with it's bright and happy cover!

This switches point of view between the three girls, which a lot of readers seem to like, and gives us a better idea of what each character is thinking. There are some flashbacks as well, since life was very different for the girls when the fortune tellers were made. It would have been interesting to get more information about Aunt Clare's condition, which was mentioned and impacted the rest of the family, but it didn't have that much bearing on the story.

Greenwald is one of my go to authors for realistic middle school stories that deal with friend and family drama, so seeing her write a magical realism book was interesting! The cover is fantastic, and goes well with her 2015 Sweet Treats and Secret Crushes. This is a fun book filled with tween drama and a little bit of magic that will be great for readers of Messner's All the Answers, Vrettos' Best Friends for Never, or Harper's Dreamer, Wisher, Liar.
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