cover image The Missing Pieces of Me

The Missing Pieces of Me

Jean van Leeuwen. Amazon/Two Lions, $17.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4778-4729-9

Ten-year-old Grace Louise “Weezie” Dawson has a load of heavy responsibility, taking care of her two younger siblings and their home in the Happy Days Trailer Park while her hard-bitten single mother waits tables at Pancake Heaven. Taking refuge in memories of her late, affectionate Gramma Emmeline and daydreaming about the father she has never known, Weezie worries about proving true her mother’s constant criticism (“Momma says I’m a bad girl,” the novel begins). Suddenly Weezie can’t stop telling lies, and she grows obsessed with finding her father. Weezie’s perception of the unfairness of her mother’s harsh treatment, told in skillful, unadorned language, slowly swells throughout the story as she enjoys small triumphs like befriending a haughty stray cat, making a new school pal, and discovering a talent for art. Van Leeuwen (Cabin on Trouble Creek) avoids a happy ending that would ring false with the novel’s unstinting realism, but Weezie’s newfound strength and her growing understanding of the murkiness of life and love make for a satisfying finish. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)