cover image The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher

Jessica Lawson, illus. by Iacopo Bruno. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4814-0150-0

Lawson makes a delightfully clever debut with what at first seems to be a feminist spin on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: What if Becky Thatcher were the troublemaker and adventurer, and Tom a goody-goody tattletale? But the presence of a character named Sam Clemens, “the story man,” as Becky dubs him, taking constant notes, adds a deeper metafictional layer to the story. Lawson delivers an entertaining tale, but also writes movingly about grief. Becky is struggling with the death of her older brother, Jon, a year earlier, and with the simultaneous loss of her mother, now a silent mourning shadow, incapable of showing love for Becky. There is plenty of small-town adventure involving escaped thieves, graveyard escapades, and a possible witch. Trained by Jon, brave Becky is an authentic tomboy who prides herself on her spitting and ear-flicking, as well as an open-hearted and loyal friend, and her final conversation with Clemens in the closing pages makes Lawson’s real premise deliciously clear. A rewarding read on many levels. Ages 8–12. Agent: Tina Wexler, ICM. (July)