From Publishers Weekly
The summer of 1955 is a tough one for 10-year-old ragamuffin Isabella, nicknamed Teaspoon, who's been enlisted into a Big Sister–style program that's supposed to teach her civilized behavior. Five years earlier, Teaspoon's mother took off for Hollywood, leaving her boyfriend, Teddy, and her daughter to take care of each other; now a full-fledged tomboy, Teaspoon is paired in the program with popular 18-year-old Brenda Bloom, whose mother owns the movie theater in their suburban Milwaukee town. Sketched with nostalgic sweetness, this hard-luck coming-of-age story sees Teaspoon discovering her talent for singing while getting caught up in plans for the theater's gala re-opening, her mother's promised return, Teddy's budding relationship with Sunday school teacher Miss Tuckle, and Brenda's romantic dilemmas. Kring (The Book of Bright Ideas
) gives her young, put-upon protagonist an authentically weary voice, but telegraphs her plot revelations, provoking little emotion beyond the mildly touching. Though the chatterbox heroine makes an engaging narrator, readers may be reminded more of Dennis the Menace than Anne of Green Gables. (May)
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Fans of Kring’s previous novels, including Thank You for All Things (2008), will welcome her heart-tugging latest, narrated, once again, by an irrepressible child. In small-town Wisconsin in 1955, 10-year-old Teaspoon struggles at school. Pining for her mother, who left her with a boyfriend while she “chased dreams” in Hollywood, only adds to her restlessness. Her concerned teacher enrolls her in Sunshine Sisters, a girls’ mentoring program, and Teaspoon finds herself teamed up with the “Sweetheart of Mill Town,” 18-year-old Brenda Bloom, whose mother owns the Starlight cinema, Teaspoon’s favorite avenue of escape. Gradually, as the unlikely pair bonds, Teaspoon recognizes similarly unsettled sorrows in her picture-perfect Sunshine Sister. Kring balances Teaspoon’s occasionally too-precious naïveté with jolts of earthy realism: “I love you with all I’ve got, but I’ve never been one to let mushrooms grow under my ass,” Teaspoon’s mother says before abandoning her daughter. Kring skillfully evokes the warmth and suffocation of small-town life, as well as the heartache and resilience of children buffeted by parental failure, all delivered in Teaspoon’s memorable, winsome voice. --Gillian Engberg