cover image Best Girl

Best Girl

Doris Buchanan Smith. Viking Children's Books, $13.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83752-6

No one can understand better than Nealy the devastation Mrs. Dees feels when her home is gutted by fire, for underneath the house was Nealy's special hiding place, where she escaped her mother's wrath and stowed her favorite treasures. The child's grief is intensified by other unrelated yet equally tragic incidents, including her older sister's departure from home and the destruction of a favorite tree. Clearly, Nealy's pain never completely subsides, but she is able to form new bonds of friendship with those who share her sorrow. The author of Voyages and Return to Bitter Creek weaves another intricate web of emotions in this intimate story of loss and survival. The book's meandering pace and sketchy characterizations (Nealy's mother is particularly enigmatic) may put off some readers; others will appreciate the subtlety and deep compassion of Smith's narrative. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)