cover image One Thing I'm Good at

One Thing I'm Good at

Karen L. Williams. HarperCollins, $14.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16846-9

Julie Dorinsky believes she is ""a dumb kid who couldn't do anything right."" In fact, little seems to be going right for this fourth-grader. A shaky speller and slow reader, she's afraid to show her parents her stack of ""poor work"" school papers and she is losing her best friend to the class snob. Things are equally rocky on the home front. Julie's father is recovering from a heart attack, so her mother has taken a secretarial job and often seems ""tired or upset or busy."" Once Julie's confidante, her older sister, Alexia, is now dismissive and condescending (""You are so stupid!... You can't even take a phone message!"" she screams when Julie takes down a caller's name and number incorrectly). At times, the girl's ineptitude is overblown, and most readers will quickly pick up on the ways Julie positively influences her bright and likable four-year-old brother. She patiently teaches him to write his name, make a kite and dial 911. When their father passes out and the boy phones in a life-saving call for help, it becomes clear to everyone--especially Julie--that the one thing she is good at is teaching. Williams (Galimoto) delivers an encouraging message for any middle-grader short on confidence and self-esteem. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)