cover image Randall's Wall

Randall's Wall

Carol Fenner. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $15 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-689-50518-8

Rivaling Sarah-Kate of Afternoon of the Elves and the Herdman children of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever as the poorest, dirtiest kid in town, Randall Lord is shunned by all of his classmates except spunky Jean, whom he saves from a quick-fisted bully. After Jean takes Randall home and persuades him to take a bath, the ``invisible wall'' that has surrounded the fifth grader seems to disappear with all the grime--if Randall's popularity does not increase, he does, at least, become more approachable. Meanwhile, Randall's teacher displays his impressive drawings at school, and citizens of the community take steps to help the artist and his impoverished family. A deftly contemporary Cinderella story, this winsome tale is filled with warmth and spiced with vibrant narrative. Besides presenting Randall's point of view, Fenner ( Gorilla, Gorilla ; A Summer of Horses ) explores the changing attitudes of other characters who are at first repelled by Randall's background and appearance. While some will find the happy ending unrealistic, most readers will be touched by the sudden turn of events that celebrates friendship and compassion. Ages 9-12. (Apr.)