The Rumor: And How the Truth Sets You Free
One of three titles launching the Lil' Shawnee series by television personality Snow (The Real Housewives of Atlanta), this slight novel introduces Shawnee, an African-American fifth-grader who longs to make friends at her new school. She's thrilled when she's asked to a sleepover hosted by classmate Rayna, but once Shawnee arrives, she discovers she's only been invited because Rayna wants Shawnee to do her science project for her, and that Rayna is prepared to spread a rumor that Shawnee has a contagious disease if she refuses. Fearing that the school will "go crazy with worry about some disease," Shawnee agrees to do the project, then grapples with telling her parents the truth. Guiding Shawnee is fairy godmother–like Nevaeh, who pops in to bolster Shawnee's confidence in dealing with Rayna and encourage her to tell the truth. There's little subtlety to the story about following one's conscience and doing the right thing: Nevaeh ("heaven" spelled backwards) is prone to platitudes, and Rayna is an over-the-top mean girl. Perrin's crisp, b&w cartoons reinforce both Shawnee's earnestness and Rayna's nastiness. Simultaneously available: Keeping Up with the Joneses and Taking Center Stage. Ages 7–12.