The Secrets of Cricket Karlsson

Kristina Sigunsdotter, illus. by Ester Eriksson, trans. from the Swedish by Julia Marshall. Gecko, $18.99 (112p) ISBN 978-1-77657-427-8

Packed with preadolescent angst, Sigunsdotter’s trim, quirky novel follows 11-year-old Cricket, who rates her life as “pretty good” until she returns to school after two weeks with chicken pox to discover that her best friend Noa has deserted her for a clique of “horse girls.” Soon, the girl’s beloved Aunt Frannie, who’s an artist like Cricket plans to be, loses her “life-joy” and is institutionalized in “something called Adult Psych.” Cricket tries to cope with these developments—hiding in the school bathroom, visiting Aunt Frannie as often as possible, and going outside on sleepless nights to throw cucumbers from a bridge—while trying to gently discourage a sweaty-handed male friend who suddenly wants to go out with her. The humorously blunt first-person narrative, which includes Cricket’s numerous revealing lists—secrets shared only with Noa (“Only my right breast has started growing”), secrets not even shared with Noa (“Sometimes I’m scared Mom and Dad will die”)—offers a sympathetic portrait of an idiosyncratic, thoughtful preteen in a period of turmoil. Eriksson’s scratchy b&w drawings, which accentuate Cricket’s emotions with a journal-like vibe, portray all characters with paper-white skin. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)
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