Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

208p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481458429.
Gr 4–6—Ten-year-old Vilonia realizes that responsibility has its limits. Her life has been uprooted following the recent death of her beloved grandma, Nana. Vilonia's mother has fallen into a deep depression and has left the family to manage for themselves. Her father and brother are doing what they can, but Vilonia steps up in a colossal way. She takes over her mother's job writing obituaries for the local newspaper, cares for the school's pet fish, and inadvertently burns down a neighbor's chicken coop, all in the name of convincing her family she is responsible enough to get a puppy. She believes a dog is the key to her family's happiness, like in her favorite book, Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie. Yet Vilonia learns that one can only do so much. This contemporary tale is full of humor. Readers may have a hard time keeping up with Vilonia's various exploits, as some plot lines receive more attention than others. But what sets this tale apart is how Vilonia learns the lessons of love and friendship. She strikes a smooth balance between self-indulgence and caring. The text is wordy, but the prose is clear. The character development is top-notch.
VERDICT A heartfelt read filled with nuanced characters; recommended for those seeking a fast-paced adventure with a very human story.

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