Mattie pulls her pajamas on, which she can do in the dark. She does not need to see her pajamas. She knows they are pale blue with yellow cheese on them, and that the top has three little mouse buttons. Eenie, Meenie, and Miney.
The last button hole stays empty. Moe is long lost.
“Poor Moe,” Mattie says (p 24).
When Mattie is introduced to new people – which is often because she and her mother are always moving – she might be considered shy or even stuck up. She looks down and talks softly, if at all. After all, saying the right thing – the clever thing – is not easy. And Mattie knows that one word, one incorrect word, can be devastating.
Mattie is happy about the latest move. She and her mother will live with her Uncle Potluck while he recovers from an impending knee surgery. Mattie will begin school in one week. Until then, she follows her Uncle, the school’s custodian, as he tends to the building in hopes that he will allow her to spend recess, lunch and other “lawless time” with him instead of being forced to mingle with the students. She studiously records all custodial duties and her Uncle’s sagacious tips.
This book is excellent not only for what is written and how it is written but for what isn’t written. It is a slender book that tackles mother/daughter relationships, bullying, early adolescent worries, the art of story through writing/drawing, and (a hint of) romance with elegance and brevity. If you have the chance, pop over to Heavy Medal and read this little rant by Jonathan Hunt called Is This Absolutely Necessary? Urban’s Hound Dog Trueputs those 300+ page books to shame.
The characters, even those with minor appearances, are strongly and clearly portrayed. Uncle Potluck is that rare character that threatens to upstage the main character, even one as deftly developed as Mattie, with his wit and wisdom.
And I haven’t even mentioned Quincey Sweet yet! She is the teenage-looking neighbor whom Mattie avoids until she realizes Quincey is a kindred spirit. This is an exceptional book and a very satisfying second offering from Urban, whose debut novel, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, is a perfect gem.
Advance Reader Copy | September 6, 2011 | Harcourt Children’s Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | ISBN 978-0-547-55869-1 | $15.99