From School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Lizzie and Ben have a lot in common. Eleven years old, they were born days apart, their mothers were once best friends, and they recently lost their fathers, although Ben's died, while Lizzie's left Alabama for parts unknown. Lizzie's father left her a gold locket that once belonged to her paternal grandmother; the slingshot his dad made becomes Ben's constant companion. These talismans figure in the resolution of the story. Scratching out a living in a small town during the Depression becomes even harder when Lizzie's mother's sadness stops her from functioning. The girl is left to struggle to keep her grades up, maintain daily chores, and handle a rivalry with a mean-spirited girl, Erin. Making matters worse, it seems that Ben has befriended Erin. He is wise beyond his age and recognizes Lizzie for whom she is. He tolerates her selfishness until it escalates, forcing him away. Lizzie keeps a journal with her innermost thoughts and feelings, providing insight into the behaviors she describes in her narration. Erin and her mother, quite unlikable characters, attempt unsuccessfully to further separate Lizzie's family (an orphanage for her, an institution for her mother). The plot is at times tense, with a contrived albeit satisfying conclusion. The characters are memorable. Lizzie is often self-absorbed, unsympathetic, and highly competitive, but as she matures, she recognizes these traits in herself and tries to grow. Often too gentle, Ben can finally articulate his feelings to Lizzie. Readers will likely see parallels between Lizzie's time and personality and their own.-Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Libraryα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Eleven-year-old Lizzie Hawkins has her share of troubles: out-of-work Dad has abandoned the family, prompting Mama’s descent into a near-catatonic state; and classmate and bully Erin Sawyer regularly threatens to inform the authorities, which could result in institutionalization for Mama and an orphanage for Lizzie. Convinced her father will return (and that he would not want her to ask for help), Lizzie does her best to manage on her own, even as her family’s financial situation continues to crumble. Set in Bittersweet, Alabama, in 1932, Golden’s debut brims with local color and colloquialisms (“Kiss my grits”). The characterizations of Lizzie and best friend Ben (who has his own troubles) are particularly well drawn, and Golden is effective in conveying their different approaches to hardships—Lizzie confronts every obstacle with a battle, while Ben trusts everyone, including those he shouldn’t. Less nuanced is nemesis Erin; by the time her extenuating motivations are revealed, readers will likely be too disgusted to forgive. Pair with Clare Vanderpool’s Moon over Manifest (2010). Grades 4-6. --Kay Weisman