cover image Leap


Jane Breskin Zalben, . . Knopf, $15.99 (261pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83871-2

This sensitively wrought novel about growing pains shows how two sixth-graders in Flushing, Queens, rekindle an old friendship after a devastating accident. Through alternating viewpoints, Zalben (Hey, Mama Goose ) offers an up-close, honest portrayal of her two main characters: Daniel, who is left partially paralyzed after having an allergic reaction to anesthesia, and Krista, who used to be close to Daniel but now is preoccupied with getting Daniel's best friend, Bobby, to notice her. As the story unfolds, the children's individual conflicts come to light. Daniel, once a champion swimmer, is frustrated with his slow progress in recovering the use of his legs and is distraught by his parents' bitterness towards Bobby's father (the dentist "responsible" for Daniel's paralysis). Family tensions go from bad to worse when Daniel's mother leaves the family to pursue her music dreams. Meanwhile, Krista experiences her own share of anger and dismay as she observes the blossoming romance between Bobby and another classmate, Lainie. As Daniel and Krista struggle to come to terms with changes in their lives, they find themselves drawn together. Krista agrees to help Daniel relearn how to swim and the two of them team up to work on a science project centered on a tadpole. The tadpole's metamorphosis neatly mirrors the children's internal growth as they come to terms with their losses and move forward. Eloquently expressing the power of hope and friendship, this story delivers an inspiring message. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)