cover image Not Starring Zadie Louise

Not Starring Zadie Louise

Joy McCullough. Atheneum, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5344-9623-1

On Washington State’s Bainbridge Island, 10-year-old Zadie Louise Gonzalez is an aspiring astronaut who loves tae kwon do. But as she heads into summertime freedom, her parents reveal that money’s tight, and that neither she nor her sister, 12-year-old Lulu, can participate in their usual activities. Instead, their Guatemalan father will join the gig economy as a Ryde driver, and the siblings will take part in a local youth theater production of Spinderella—headed by its artistic director, their mother, who reads as white. Budding diva Lulu takes happily to the boards, but stage-averse Zadie flees her audition, heading straight for the catwalk before learning that the venue doesn’t allow minors to work in tech theater—and that the cool new stage manager won’t let kids into her booth. Zadie nevertheless rallies, doing her level best to put her science and technology skills to good use, but the universe and a pair of mean girls conspire against her, rendering each of her efforts a disaster. Employing Beezus and Ramona–like family dynamics surrounding financial worries, sibling spats, and a significant transition involving a beloved family member, McCullough (Across the Pond) writes a relatable fish-out-of-water story, centering themes of passion and perseverance amid life change. Ages 8–up. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (June)