by Phyliss Naylor, published 2009
“We’re supposed to talk about real differences and perceived differences, and…I just don’t know. Sadness feels the same, whether it’s in Lexington or here in Thunder Creek.”
This beautifully written children’s book gives us a direct experience that caring for others not only yields the greatest happiness, but transcends social class. I read the last 50 pages of this children’s book with non-stop tears. Perhaps it was because I was tired, perhaps I was feeling emotional, or perhaps this is really a fabulous children’s book. I like to think the last is true, particularly because I found it on the nominee list of the California Young Reader Medal list.
The premise of the book is terrific: two seventh-grade girls are on an exchange program, spending two weeks in each other’s home. The two girls are from completely opposite ends of the social spectrum in Kentucky – one in the poorest Appalachian mountain towns, the other in blue blood Lexington. The book examines stereotypes as well as learning to be oneself in any situation. It is a fabulous book for 6th to 8th grade classroom reading, as well as a nice summer reading book for anyone.
One great strength of this children’s book is that the characters are very real and appealing. I particularly loved the depiction of the grandfather, who works in a coal mine, and is looking forward to retirement in a few months at age 65.
This is one children’s book that I know with certainty kids will love… that’s the only way it gets on the California Young Reader medal list in the first place!