Leaving Emma

Nancy Steele Brokaw, Author Clarion Books $15 (144p) ISBN 978-0-395-90699-6
The subject of this first novel--a child's adjustment to change--is relevant and universal, but uneven characterizations and pat plotting mute its impact. Fifth-grader Emma is swamped by fear and a sense of abandonment when her best friend, Tem, announces that she is moving, and when, later that same day, Emma's father breaks the news he will be working overseas for five months. But reactions from Emma's mother, showing similar angst, sound artificial (when she hears Tem is leaving town, Emma's mother says, ""Oh, dear, oh dear.... You two have been friends for so long. This is upsetting, and I'm not sure I can cope with one more upsetting thing""). Emma's mother seems to disintegrate after Emma's father leaves, and then, shockingly, she decides to join him for five weeks, putting Great-Aunt Grace in charge. Predictably, Great-Aunt Grace--hitherto a virtual stranger to Emma--is able to convince Emma to feel sympathy for her weak mother, and supports Emma while she develops her artistic inclinations as a ""techie"" on the school play. Much more is told than shown, so that nobody comes across as particularly lifelike. Coming out of this flimsy foundation, the upbeat reminder at the end, that new beginnings can grow from sad endings, lacks authority. Ages 9-12. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/19/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Genre: Children's
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