cover image The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee

Barry Jonsberg. Chronicle, $16.99 (248p) ISBN 978-1-4521-3351-5

In a moving story first published in Australia, Jonsberg (Dreamrider) handles painful topics with honesty and humor. When 12-year-old Candice gets a school assignment to write an alphabetically organized essay about something that happened in her past, she turns it into a book covering her entire life. Candice’s literal-mindedness and social awkwardness are intrinsic to her personality. “I can’t go out in the sun unless I use cream with a sun protection factor of one zillion. Please understand that I am deliberately exaggerating for rhetorical effect,” Candice explains in one of several unanswered letters to an American pen pal. When new student Douglas tells her he’s from another dimension, Candice can almost understand his quest to return “home” because she, too, has a quest: to make her family happy again. Candice’s mother suffers from depression, her father had a falling out with Candice’s uncle, and all of them are still reeling from the death of Candice’s baby sister. Jonsberg has created a memorable heroine in Candice, whose determined attempts to heal her family and understand her place in the world will stick with readers. Ages 10–up. (Sept.)