From School Library Journal
Grade 5–7—Queen Marie Rousseau is intelligent and capable. She is also bossy and selfish. Spoiled from birth by her father and three older brothers (and somewhat less by her mother) and homeschooled until she was in third grade, Queen has no idea how to relate to her fifth-grade classmates. She doesn't seem able to keep her mouth shut and often treats them with scorn. When a new boy, Leroy, appears in class—smelly, ill-dressed, and claiming he is from Africa—Queen is sure he is lying and becomes determined to prove it. Following him, she discovers that he is running errands for a neighbor, an actor who has developed agoraphobia. Queen bullies Leroy into telling her about Cornelius and tries to talk her way into his apartment. Her high-and-mighty attitude doesn't work with the man—he insists that she solve a complicated riddle and act decently before he will speak with her. So begins Queen's slow and bumpy realization that being pleasant will smooth her relationships with others. She eventually gains entrance into Cornelius's apartment and discovers all the memorabilia he has collected over a lifetime of world travel. And she finds a real friend in Leroy. Flake has created a character who is difficult and unlikable but at the same time sympathetic. Everything is wrapped up a little too quickly, but that will not deter readers from rooting for the child to change her attitude and find her place in the world.—Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA
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I am a queen. Spoiled, smart, pretty, privileged, and mean, fifth-grader Queen Marie Rousseau has barely a friend at schooleven the teacher dislikes her. Things change when she meets her knight in shining armorthe new kid, Leroy. He smells like moldy clothes and rides a rusty, broken bike, but he shows her a whole new world near his neighborhood projects. Queen knows Leroy is a fake when he says he is an African prince from Senegal, but then he brings gold coins and an elephant tusk to school. Are they real? Where did he get them? The mystery is fun, and even though the solution is a bit contrived and message-driven, Queen's arrogant, first-person, present-tense narrative brings readers along as she takes a voyage around the world that changes her. Queen's discovery, We are all from Africa, makes a great climax. Rochman, Hazel