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SOLVING ZOE by Barbara Dee

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"Mom, you have GOT to read this!" My daughter punches the air with the book for emphasis. "Barbara Dee is SUCH a good writer." What would I give to be eight and feel like I can tell when someone is SUCH a good writer...sigh.

This book deals with issues familiar to many middle graders: a sense of belonging, friendship, fitting in. Zoe feels unremarkable in her surroundings, being related to a star-performer sister and a math-genius brother and attending a progressive school for the gifted. She is not bothered by her own ordinary existence until her world is rocked by two people's actions: her best friend's apparent desire to leave their cozy little circle and the appearance of a boy who scribbles and acts weird.

The interactions Zoe has with the best-friend-becoming-difficult-to-understand and the difficult-to-understand-boy-becoming-a-friend leaves her confused and sad and annoyed at different times. A new after-school job tending lizards, an unexpected two-weeks suspension from school, and lots of thinking later, Zoe comes to terms with what the inevitability happenings of life: that people change, that people will seem strange until you get a glimpse of what else shapes their lives, that people will misunderstand you, and that sometimes you need someone else to point out the truth about yourself.

As a writer, I am also impressed by how the essence of the book is contained in the opening chapter, without any sense of events or writing being forced to achieve this. I read the beginning chapter twice just to absorb how she does it.

The eight-year old is right. Barbara Dee is a good, and I'll add, very, VERY good, writer.

#1 - September 20, 2009, 02:34 PM


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