cover image Pieces of Georgia

Pieces of Georgia

Jennifer Bryant, Author . Knopf $15.95 (166p) ISBN 978-0-375-8

Bryant's (The Trial ) tale of a quiet, observant 13-year-old unfolds as a free verse journal. Most of the other kids on the "At Risk" list have "substance abuse" next to their names, but beside Georgia McCoy's name the guidance counselor, Mrs. Yocum, writes "financial/single parent—father/possible medical?" When Georgia can't put her feelings about her mother's death six years ago into words, Mrs. Yocum gives her a journal and suggests, "write down what you might tell, or what you might ask,/ your mother/ if she were here." This, combined with a membership to the Brandywine River Museum from "anonymous" nudge Georgia to further explore her love of drawing. In her journal, she describes the loss of her artistic mother, life with her taciturn father, and her overachieving friend Tiffany. Georgia's eloquent, spare musings convey both her wisdom and sense of fairness. The kindnesses shown her by the school nurse, who explains puberty, and the art teacher, who gives Georgia old supplies to foster her talent—and also to protect her pride—counterbalance her father's silent grief and the cruelty of kids who tease her about her poverty. Georgia's powerlessness to help Tiffany through her anxiety and exhaustion seems very real, as does Georgia's evolving relationship with her father. Through Georgia's artwork, noticing details others miss, learning about painters like O'Keeffe and Wyeth, and reaching out to others, the fragmented pieces of this steely, gentle heroine become an integrated whole. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)