cover image Kizzy Ann Stamps

Kizzy Ann Stamps

Jeri Watts. Candlewick, $15.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5895-3

Watts, author of the picture book Keepers, displays sure footing in this strong foray into middle-grade fiction, about a 12-year-old black girl from Virginia navigating significant life changes. Set over the course of a year starting in the summer of 1963, Watts’s epistolary novel consists of candid letters Kizzy writes to Miss Anderson, her soon-to-be teacher at a newly integrated public school, and journal entries addressed to her teacher during the school year. Kizzy is apprehensive about sharing a classroom with white students: she wears the hand-me-down dresses of one white girl, and another classmate is responsible for the accident that left her with a prominent facial scar. Prevalent racism threatens Kizzy’s aspirations, as well as those of her athletic older brother, but with help from within and without—as well as the support of her beloved border collie, Shag—Kizzy prevails, and does so triumphantly. Watts offers an evenhanded, insightful evocation of a turbulent time and of a girl’s perseverance, with Kizzy’s writing exposing both widespread prejudice and the determination and will that countered it. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)