cover image Runt


Nora Raleigh Baskin. Simon & Schuster, $15.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4424-5807-9

Baskin (The Summer Before Boys) again offers an on-target portrayal of middle-school angst as she portrays the day-to-day torments of students in a sixth-grade class. In a series of brief vignettes, she moves between classmates including “Smelly-Girl” Elizabeth, who can’t shake the lingering scent (or shed hair) of her mother’s dog-sitting business; Elizabeth’s nemesis, Maggie, who is “used to winning things,” but hasn’t been able to repair her fallout with her artistically talented former best friend Freida; and Stewart and Matthew, two athletes whose rivalry leads to a fight and a suspension. Although their backgrounds and interests are different, all of Baskin’s characters have experienced the pain of humiliation or exclusion in one way or another, and most of them recognize that life was simpler back when the whole class was still invited to birthday parties. Rather than providing tidy, concrete solutions to the characters’ dilemmas and the class’s pecking order, Baskin delivers an honest message about surviving bad situations and remaining true to oneself and one’s friends. Ages 8–12. Agent: Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (July)