Gertie's Leap to Greatness

Kate Beasley's debut novel has a terrific opening line: "The bullfrog was only half dead, which was perfect." Best half dead, because 10-year-old Gertie Reece Foy wants to resuscitate the bullfrog, boast about it in her back-to-school "summer speech," and be that much closer to being the best fifth grader ever--not just in Alabama but in the world.

Gertie's ultimate goal is to prove to the mother who left her that she is important. She will knock on her traitorous mom's door, "gleaming with greatness," and show her that she is "one-hundred-percent, not-from-concentrate awesome and that she didn't need a mother anyway. So there."

It's sometimes painful to watch Gertie tie herself in knots to be perfect, but Aunt Rae is always there to try to boost her great-niece's morale. This loving, supportive woman--and Gertie's often-absent-but-caring-father--are at the core of Gertie's Leap to Greatness, offering a gentle nudge for readers to remember what one has vs. longing for what one doesn't.

The ferocity of Gertie is something to admire, marvel at, and almost fear when she's feeling "dangerous." Her observations about everything from how Aunt Rae should be able to sense her unhappiness "like how dogs could smell fear and earthquakes and alien invasions" to The Waltons (a TV show "about this big family that wore old-fashioned clothes and talked about how much they loved each other") make this an energetic, entertaining read. Caldecott Honor artist Jillian Tamaki's (This One Summer) vivacious, often kinetic illustrations of Gertie and her entourage make the story leap to life. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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