From School Library Journal
Grade 5-7–Frankie Wallop is shocked when she reads an e-mail sent to her widowed father by a woman he met recently. Not only does it sound as though the two have spent time together, but also that there was a kiss involved. Immediately taking the situation in hand, the 12-year-old responds to Ayanna with the sound advice to never write her dad again–he is much too busy with his family, especially Frankie's two younger brothers who have some sort of horrible disease. Now that she has sorted that out, she can turn her attention to the upcoming audition for the school play, convinced that the lead will be hers. Frankie is about to find out that life does not always follow one's plans. Not only does Ayanna keep writing back, asking Frankie about her life and describing her own job as the keeper of the naked mole-rats at the National Zoo, but unhappy thoughts that her father might remarry also keep creeping into her mind. Not getting the part in the play is also a deep blow, and she does not know how to cope. The straight-A student finds herself ditching school, lying to her teachers, shutting out her best friend, and ignoring the needs of her younger brothers. Through the e-mails to Ayanna and her own diary entries, readers follow Frankie's struggles with disappointment, anger, loss, and growing up. Only after a family crisis does she finally talk with her father and begin to work things out. A fairly predictable story, but one with solid relationships and refreshing characterizations.–Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA
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Gr. 4-7. Frankie is shocked when she intercepts an e-mail from a woman, Ayanna (nicknamed Ratlady), who apparently met and kissed Frankie's widowed father during a recent business trip. She begins an e-mail exchange with Ayanna in an attempt to discourage the budding romantic relationship. Ayanna, keeper of the naked mole rats at the Washington, D.C., National Zoo, attempts to maintain an honest dialogue, but Frankie's desperate and comic replies escalate out of control. In a believable way, Frankie begins to act out of character in reaction to the changes in her life, unsettling her best friend, her teachers, and also her father. Ayanna's supportive e-mails (including analogies to the behavior of her small mammals) eventually help Frankie deal with her disappointment at not getting the lead in the school's play and prompt her to talk to her father about their latent grief over the death of Frankie's mother. Told in e-mails and diary entries, this is a humorous look at honesty and privacy that will have special relevance for readers whose parents are back in the dating pool. Cindy DobrezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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