Julia Gillian (and the Quest for Joy)
Two spirited middle-grade heroines return in a pair of sequels.
In the second installment of a planned trilogy, McGhee again focuses in on the everyday life of the upstanding title character from Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing) , as she seeks to add to her list of accomplishments. Fifth grade is proving to be harder than Julia Gillian anticipated—there is a strict new lunchroom monitor, her best friend is becoming more independent and Julia Gillian can't master the trumpet. Though she wants to solve her own problems, Julia Gillian ends up lying to cover up for her inabilities, which makes matters worse (“That was the problem with being a liar and a hider. Once you started, you just had to keep going”). While the day-to-day narration can be repetitive and the resolution comes a bit quickly and conveniently—Julia Gillian comes clean, learns to play the trumpet and realizes the lunch monitor is not as bad as he seemed—her inner conflicts and fears remain highly relatable. Generously spaced text and frequent, creative use of Kozjan's loose art, which exudes personality, should appeal to new and reluctant readers alike. Ages 9–12. (Apr.)