cover image Mama, Let's Dance

Mama, Let's Dance

Patricia Hermes. Little Brown and Company, $15.95 (168pp) ISBN 978-0-316-35861-3

Just like Papa did years before, Mama has gone off and left 16-year-old Ariel, 11-year-old Mary Belle and seven-year-old Callie to fend for themselves in rural North Carolina. Ariel's gas station work earns them just enough for food, but keeping their situation a secret from the county welfare people is a job in itself. Mary Belle runs the household sternly, refusing charity from even her good friend Amarius and his niece Dearly. But when Callie falls ill with measles, Mary Belle must finally ask for help. She is rightfully hardened and bitter, though her narrative occasionally sounds wise beyond her years. Callie's spirited naivete helps add sparkle to this emotion- filled and depressing tale. Disappointingly, Mary Belle's final redemption evokes neither triumph nor joy, but readers will appreciate her discovery that what constitutes a family has not much to do with genetics and everything to do with love. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)