cover image Just Harriet (Just Harriet #1)

Just Harriet (Just Harriet #1)

Elana K. Arnold, illus. by Dung Ho. Walden Pond, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-309204-4

Rising fourth grader and narrator Harriet Wermer starts this chapter book with “the worst things first.” Specifically, Harriet reveals, she lies, has night terrors, occasionally wets her bed, and can get what her mother calls “out of hand.” The latter occurs when Harriet learns that her parents are sending her to stay with her paternal grandmother, Nanu, for the summer due to her pregnant mother’s prescribed bed rest. Harriet resents the decision, but once she and the family feline, Matzo Ball, settle into her grandmother’s B&B on Marble Island, Calif., she does manage to encounter some of the “adventure and mystery” that Nanu claims are “everywhere, if you know how to look.” There’s the old-fashioned key Harriet finds in the shed, and a seemingly abandoned “Gingerbread House”; learning how both are tied to her father’s childhood, Harriet gains insight into him and herself. Mixing humor with drama, Arnold (Starla Jean) once again shows her clear understanding of children’s emotions and behaviors as she traces presumed-white Harriet’s changing heart and views. With its short chapters, lively occasional illustrations by Ho (Eyes That Kiss in the Corners), and energetic feuds between Harriet’s cat and her grandmother’s beloved basset hound, this series opener is a winner. Ages 6–10. Agent: Rubin Pfeffer, Rubin Pfeffer Content. (Feb.)