cover image The Flip-Flop Girl: 9

The Flip-Flop Girl: 9

Katherine Paterson. Dutton Books, $14.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-525-67480-1

Torn apart by the recent death of her father, 10-year-old Vinnie does not look forward to moving from D.C. to Virginia and starting a new life in Brownsville (a town as dull as its name) with her stressed-out mother and ``crazy'' younger brother, Mason, who has not spoken a word since the funeral. Sharing her dreary grandmother's cramped house is bad enough, but going to a new school proves even less bearable. The only classmate to show her any kindness is Lupe, herself ostracized by the others. Like Lyddie, the eponymous heroine of the author's previous novel, Vinnie finds a refuge from emotional pain in fantasy, but when the object of her romantic dreams, gentle teacher Mr. Clayton, announces his upcoming marriage, she feels betrayed. Enraged, she scratches Mr. Clayton's beautifully painted car--whereupon her remorse teaches her the destructive effects of her anger, allowing her to come to terms with her problems and to open her eyes to other people's suffering. A master of rendering the intensity of childhood emotions, Paterson explores the impact of grief and the slow process of healing. With deep compassion, her story crystallizes the vulnerability and resiliency of preadolescents placed in tragic circumstances. Ages 8-10. (Feb.)