cover image A Little Bit of Spectacular

A Little Bit of Spectacular

Gin Phillips. Dial, $16.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3837-9

Eleven-year-old Olivia is desperate for something to distract her from the realities of a dead father and a seriously ill mother when a mysterious message on a restaurant’s bathroom wall has her trying to crack the code of the “Plantagenet,” be they aliens, a line of kings, or something more pedestrian. Along the way Olivia befriends a frog-keeping girl named Amelia, creating her first real connection in Birmingham, Ala., aside from kindly coffeehouse cashiers and the phantom scrawler. Phillips (The Hidden Summer) crafts a touching exploration of love and loss, told through the perspective of a child enduring adult responsibilities thrust upon her. Instead of bowing to pressure, Olivia is resilient, wise, and shrewd, while retaining childlike sensibilities, including a belief that anything is possible. Even as her mother’s health improves, Olivia wishes that she will never get sick or old, and the message suggests that there’s a way to make it so. The idea of living forever takes on a more poignant and attainable meaning by the time the two girls solve the mystery behind the riddle. Ages 10–up. (May)