cover image Lily’s Promise

Lily’s Promise

Kathryn Erskine. Quill Tree, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-305815-6

In alternating chapters, Erskine (The Incredible Magic of Being) follows the third-person telling of a sixth grade new kid and the meta first-person commentary of Libro—the book itself. When intellectually curious, formerly homeschooled Lily, cued as white, starts at a new school following her father’s death, the shy girl attempts to honor a promise she made to him: to move out of her comfort zone. As Lily adjusts to life with her immigration lawyer mother and labradoodle Skippy, she also navigates the transition to school, bullies, and lunchtime cliques, gradually collecting friends: outspoken white neighbor and curling enthusiast Hobart (“Awkward is my middle name”) and contemplative, multilingual Dunya, who’s from Iraq. Erskine effectively captures Lily’s struggles to find her voice, escalating her conflict with entitled bully Ryan, in opposition to whom the friends start a kindness letter-writing campaign, stand up for each other and others, and launch a slate of candidates for student council. The inclusion of Libro’s meta voice can sometimes interrupt the action, but it effectively provides humor while offering insight into storytelling. A touching novel that will leave readers cheering for Lily’s quiet victories. Ages 8–12. (May)