cover image OPHIE OUT OF OZ


Kathleen O'Dell, , illus. by Rosie Winstead. . Dial, $15.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2930-8

After winningly examining the peculiarities of sixth grade in Agnes Parker... Girl in Progress , O'Dell now turns to the challenges of Ophie Peeler, as she moves from California, midway through fourth grade, to a new school in Oregon. Thanks to Ophie's salesman father, changing schools is nothing new for Ophie, but this time around she misses her best friend and costarring with her in school plays. O'Dell begins with a flurry of fun details: Ophie thinks of herself as Dorothy, wears ruby slippers and names all her animal toys Toto (after she lost her stuffed Scottie, so named, in a move from Tucson to Modesto). The author convincingly develops the grudging friendship Ophie begins with a socially challenged neighbor, Brittany, as well as Ophie's all-consuming desire to be accepted by Merry and Rachel, who not only get the lead roles in the fourth-grade plays but star in a series of TV ads for Merry's father's car business. When a strange turn of events earns Ophie acceptance with "the TV Girls," she sheds Brittany; a rather rushed climax helps Ophie see the light. Proceeding less smoothly than the author's first novel, this narrative tends toward the episodic. But the exchanges between Ophie and her principal (who admits that, just as Ophie is Dorothy, in her "secret heart," she's Rhonda Fleming; Ophie "had no idea who [that] was, but she got the idea") are a highlight, and children attempting to fit into a new school or classroom dynamic will identify with Ophie's feelings. Final artwork not seen by PW . Ages 8-up. (May)