cover image Up a Creek

Up a Creek

Laura E. Williams. Henry Holt & Company, $15.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6453-7

Williams's (Torch Fishing with the Sun) novel, set in contemporary small-town Louisiana, stars 13-year-old Starshine Bott and her 1960s-holdover mother, Miracle. As pivotal events take place in Starshine's home (she menstruates for the first time; her grandmother, Memaw, is hospitalized for heatstroke; the heroine inquires about her father's identity), Miracle refuses to come down from an oak tree in which she has taken up residence to protest the town council's plans to cut the old trees down. The author takes on momentous issues with mixed results. Some of the plot development may stretch readers' credibility; several of the supporting characters are not fully fleshed out--including Miracle--so their exchanges with Starshine lack weight. Likable, feisty Memaw supports Miracle's actions as part of the family's legacy of stubborn resiliency--but the oft-mentioned tradition is never explicated. However, Starshine's narrative rings true: ""I often had the feeling my mama forgot she had a daughter named Starshine, of all things, in middle school. And no one knew better how to make fun of somebody who had a weird name and a weirder mother than a kid in middle school."" Ultimately, when Miracle's fall from the tree threatens her campaign, Starshine takes up the cause in an ending that may well prompt budding environmentalists to cheer first and fill in the gaps later. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)