From School Library Journal
Grade 5–9—During the 1920s, 15-year-old Annie travels from town to town in upstate New York with her mother, a self-proclaimed spiritual adviser. Annie is her mother's secret weapon: by posing as an idiot, she can eavesdrop on conversations around town and gather fodder for "Madame Caterina's " fortune-telling sessions. The downside, of course, is that Annie is never able to let anyone learn just how intelligent and lonely she really is. When they move to Peach Hill, the teen longs to settle down, and it seems she may get her wish when, in a rebellious moment, she feigns a miraculous cure that allows her to drop her mentally disabled pose. Finally, she is able to attend school and get to know some of the townspeople on her own terms. But the mother is as tenacious as the daughter, and has no intention of losing Annie's services. Add to the mix a local schemer who is determined to use the duo's skills to his own advantage and a persistent truant officer who has her doubts about Madame Caterina, and the result is a rollicking coming-of-age story that ends with dreams realized in unexpected ways. Jocelyn's research of the period is evident, and the old wives' tales that she has chosen as titles for each chapter hint at how the plot will unfold. Readers will not soon forget this unconventional mother-and-daughter team.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
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Never going to school, participating in a supernatural swindle, and eavesdropping around corners might seem exciting in the 1920s. But the fun of being daughter of and assistant to "clairvoyant" Madame Caterina wears off the day 15-year-old Annie sees her mother dragged to jail. Making a fresh start in Peach Hill, Madame assigns Annie the role of dim-witted idiot, hoping people will speak freely in front of her. For a while, Annie plays her part in seances, but when she sees the chance to put down roots, develop real friendships, and even find romance, she concocts a miracle cure for herself. As she grows more confident in her observations and sense of justice, she questions her mother's profession and becomes suspicious of the wealthy gentleman who shows a financial and romantic interest in Madame. The blend of coming-of-age, adventure, and intrigue, framed by details of small-town life and a classic con, will appeal to fans of spunky female characters and readers of historical fiction alike. Heather BoothCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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