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Fifth-grade girls learn tolerance and compassion.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Natalie's mother is angered when she thinks Natalie's nickname is a way of making fun of her mixed-race heritage.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that contemporary language and expressions make for dialogue kids connect with, but the style makes it sometimes hard to follow.

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What's the story?

In this story based on the author's own positive family experience of cross-cultural living, three fifth-grade girls come together and learn tolerance and compassion for each other in an urban school environment. Their friendship centers around a girl called Bluish, who struggles with leukemia in and out of remission.


Is it any good?


In her unique tone and style, Virginia Hamilton tells the story of an uncommon friendship among three girls. The story is told in short episodes of third-person narrative, interrupted by Dreenie's first-person journal entries. This shift in perspective is sometimes confusing because the journal entries include events in real time and dialogue, rather than staying inside Dreenie's mind as observations.

A few of the scenes are stilted and border on didactic, as when the teacher explains Bluish's illness to the class and when her classmates learn about the dreidel. Hamilton's strength is in her language innovations, the way she tweaks a single word in a sentence to give it sound and personality. She never dwells on illness and cancer; rather, she reaches across it to explore the intricacies of friendship despite differences.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about empathy and compassion. Why do the students steer clear of Bluish? How do you think you would feel around her? Have you ever reached out to someone whose differences you found unsettling at first?

Book details

Author:Virginia Hamilton
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:January 1, 1999
Number of pages:127
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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Kid, 12 years old June 14, 2010
The book was very good.It tells you how you shouldnt judge a book by its cover. It tells you that everyones is the same.
What other families should know
Great messages


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