cover image SYLVIA & MIZ LULA MAYE


Pansie Hart Flood, Pansie Hart Flood, , illus. by Felicia Marshall. . Lerner/Carolrhoda, $15.95 (120pp) ISBN 978-0-87614-204-2

This lumbering first novel takes place during the summer of 1978, when 10-year-old Sylvia moves to rural South Carolina with her mother, who has found a job picking peppers. On her own during the day, the African-American youngster strikes up a friendship with Miz Lula Maye, her 100-year-old neighbor. When the girl's mother, who refuses to discuss their family history with her daughter, asks Sylvia if she really likes "hanging out with that old lady," the girl defensively replies, "What do you mean? What's wrong with being friends with an old lady? She makes me feel alive! We have fun together doin' things and talkin'! I like spendin' time with Miz Lula Maye—besides, she doesn't even act old!" Sylvia's first-person narrative frequently sounds forced and becomes burdened with inconsequential details. After eating lunch one day with her elderly friend, for instance, Sylvia helps the woman tend to her cat's broken tail and then lies down to nap, noting, "As I drifted off into a much needed and deserved sleep, my last thought was that I was surprised I hadn't thrown up that delicious ham sandwich." With its sleepy pace and overly neat conclusion (Miz Lula Maye's long-lost grandson reappears and turns out to be Sylvia's father), this will likely hold little interest for most young readers. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)