cover image Friends Everywhere

Friends Everywhere

Donna Jo Napoli. Aladdin Paperbacks, $7.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82694-8

This strained tale launches Napoli's (Crazy Jack, reviewed below) Angelwings series, in which young angels must help a youngster with a problem in order to earn their wings. Taking a cue from It's a Wonderful Life, the author explains, ""Every time a little angel earned wings, a bell rang."" Here, the Little Angel of Friendship's ""tall task"" is to help Patricia, a deaf child who has recently moved from a farm to a city apartment, to make new friends. The chapters alternate between what's happening in Patricia's world and forced, preachy interludes (called ""Angel Talk"") between the Archangel of Friendship and the little angel. Patricia's initial attempt to play with her neighbor, Lynsey, and another girl ends in disaster (Patricia watches in frustration as their mouths ""moved and moved""). Readers find out why in the ""Angel Talk"" that follows: the little angel causes havoc when he blows on Lynsey's cheek (""I thought it might make her realize how confused and left out Patricia felt""), and the draft compels Lynsey to wrap a blanket around Patricia and stick a pacifier in her mouth so she can play the baby while the others play adults. Eventually, the little angel's bell does ring, but Napoli's uncharacteristically uninspired prose and flimsy story line fail to get this series off the ground. Ages 7-10. (Oct.) FYI: The publisher promotes an ""Earn Your Wings!"" essay contest at book's end.