cover image Nikki and Deja

Nikki and Deja

Karen English, , illus. by Laura Freeman. . Clarion, $15 (76pp) ISBN 978-0-618-75238-6

In her first chapter book, English (Francie ) perceptively explores the undercurrent of insecurity and rivalry that threaten two African-American girls’ friendship. When Antonia moves into the neighborhood and tries to boss two best friends around, Deja elects to start a drill club and pointedly not invite the new girl. But when Nikki messes up at drill club tryouts, she anticipates rejection and hooks up with Antonia, who proposes an exclusionary club of their own. The plot is secondary to the authentically rendered backdrops of sidewalk games, the third-grade classroom and Saturday morning TV-watching. Better still are the author’s careful tabs on the daily fluctuations in the girls’ emotional lives: “She hadn’t meant to say that.... And since she can’t put the words back into her mouth, she’s glad she’s in front of her house because then she gets to stomp up her stairs and slam the door behind her.” More probing than many chapter books, this title delivers the satisfaction of a full-length novel. Final art not seen by PW . Ages 6-10. (Dec.)