cover image Just Like Jackie

Just Like Jackie

Lindsey Stoddard. Harper, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-265291-1

Stoddard’s gently powerful debut introduces a tough-as-nails fifth-grader coping with her grandfather’s worsening Alzheimer’s disease. Eleven-year-old Robinson “Robbie” Hart tries to emulate her cheek-turning namesake, Jackie Robinson, but her anger often explodes at school, threatening to expose her guardian grandfather’s failing memory. A family tree project brings Robbie’s anxiety to the forefront—she doesn’t even know her deceased mother’s name. Stoddard movingly contrasts Robbie’s anger (such as when she’s questioned about why she’s white and her grandfather is black) with the places she feels safe, including her grandfather’s garage, the baseball field, and the Vermont woods where she helps make maple syrup. The stakes increase as her grandfather’s memory lapses turn dangerous, resulting in an accident while boiling sap. An in-school therapy group helps Robbie recognize that some of her classmates are also struggling with the family tree project, as well as divorce, illness, and other problems. This emotionally honest, sensitively written novel confronts a range of difficult topics and offers an inclusive view of what family can look like. Ages 8–12. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management. (Jan.)