cover image The Marble Queen

The Marble Queen

Stephanie J. Blake. Amazon Children’s Publishing, $16.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7614-6227-9

In 1959 Idaho Falls, Freedom Jane McKenzie’s dream is to win the marble competition at the Autumn Jubilee, but several obstacles stand in this spirited 10-year-old’s way. First is her pregnant mother, who insists that shooting marbles is for boys and argues constantly with Freedom’s heavy-drinking father and their crabby neighbor, Mrs. Zierk. Then there are the boys themselves—including Freedom’s former best friend, Daniel—who exclude her from their shootouts. As summer ends and school begins, Freedom continues to resist the conventions that say what girls should and shouldn’t do, while forming an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Zierk and beginning to see that people are more complicated than they appear, including her own parents. Blake’s debut flourishes in its smalltown details and in Freedom’s amusing observations—this nostalgic, anecdotal story is more about the journey than the destination. However, the marble contest has a surprising conclusion that dovetails well with Freedom’s growth over the course of the novel, and while not everything is neatly resolved, Blake’s plot lines conclude in an organic and pleasing way. Ages 10–up. (Jan.)