The Outsmarters

Groundwood. Aug. 2024. 248p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781773068572.
Gr 5 Up–Award-winning author Ellis offers an emotional, inspirational, and relatable story about 12-year-old Kate, who is devastated when her mother unexpectedly drops her off to live with her grandmother, a cantankerous junk store owner with whom she has a complicated relationship. Spunky and resilient Kate uses junk from Gran’s store to launch a philosophy business selling famous quotes from an eclectic group of writers and philosophers, including Audre Lorde and Albert Camus. Initially, Kate finds it difficult to interact with her customers due to her anger management issues, distrust of people, and fear that she is disliked. But, as the philosophical quotes help her customers honestly see themselves, the interactions also help Kate begin to understand herself and what she wants from her life. With this newfound insight Kate begins to advocate for those who can’t fight for themselves while also opening herself up to new relationships and experiences, helping her to make unexpected friendships and connections. Complex issues such as drug abuse, grief, and family secrets are explored with empathy through the authentic experience of an engaging young girl whom readers will relate to and root for. This title would be a great choice to facilitate book club discussions, and school counselors could also find it helpful for therapy groups.
VERDICT A compelling and poignant book that celebrates a courageous young girl’s journey toward growing up.

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