Linda Sue Park, . . Clarion, $15 (225pp) ISBN 978-0-618-47786-9

In this contemporary novel, Park (A Single Shard ) creates a Korean-American seventh-grader so lifelike she jumps off the page. Literally. Between chapters, protagonist Julia Song makes suggestions to the author about plot details and voices her complaints about the way her life is being directed ("Do you want my opinion? I am not happy with the way things are going here," Julia tells "Ms. Park," after chapter 3). Within the narrative, Julia is involved in a project for the Wiggle Club, an organization similar to 4-H. She partners up with her long-time friend Patrick, and they raise silkworms, hoping to produce enough thread for Julia to embroider a picture. The children's hunt for mulberry leaves (silkworms' sole source of food) leads them to Mr. Dixon, an elderly African-American who generously offers the leaves from his mulberry tree for their project. Besides celebrating intergenerational and interracial friendships, and presenting interesting details about the silkworm life cycle, the book introduces many issues relevant to budding adolescents. Self-conscious about her heritage, Julia feels that her project is "too Korean" ("I wanted a nice, normal, All-American, red-white-and-blue kind of project," she bemoans). She also suspects that her mother might be acting racist, by forbidding Julia to spend time with Mr. Dixon. Then there's the problem of extracting silk from the cocoons (in order to do so, the worms—which have become like pets—will have to be killed). Rather than manufacturing convenient solutions, the author—with Julia's periodic input—invents a realistic, bittersweet ending. Ages 9-13. (Apr.)