From School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-In contemporary Birmingham, Alabama, sixth-grader Nell has been coping with her mother's emotional volatility and neglect, adjusting to a sequence of stepfathers, and having only alternate-weekend contact with her preoccupied dad. Loving grandparents and a best friend have helped, but now she and Lydia are forbidden to see each other because of a disagreement between their mothers. Nell convinces Lydia to deceive their parents into thinking they are going to remedial summer school; instead they spend their days at an abandoned golf course, setting up camp inside a huge dinosaur statue on the putt-putt green. But a rift develops between them when they discover a homeless family living at Hole Nine, and Nell is drawn to the mother's kindness and interest in her. Lydia leaves, and when Nell helps a boy during a Fourth of July sparkler fire, she begins to confront the reality of her situation and to recognize the steps she must take to face the challenges of her life. The first-person narrative, if sometimes self-conscious, still effectively conveys a strong sense of place and the conflict of a sympathetic protagonist, but some plot elements strain credibility and most characters are insufficiently developed. Nevertheless, readers will be gratified that Nell's resolve and courage in ultimately standing up for herself result in a hopeful conclusion.-Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NYα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
For Nell, the end of sixth grade should mean the beginning of long summer days with her best friend, Lydia, not with her troubled mom. So when their mothers quarrel and Lydia’s mom refuses to let her hang out with Nell, it’s time for a drastic plan. After faking a required summer-school term for Nell and a free camp for Lydia, they spend long, hot days together on an abandoned golf course near their homes. All is not idyllic, even in the bizarre mini-golf structure sheltering an otherwise homeless but relatively happy family. Concrete details help bring the unusual setting to life, while Nell’s home life and her mother’s emotional instability fall more clearly into perspective the longer she stays away. This realistic novel is narrated by its sympathetic protagonist, who struggles within the broken and barely mended family she has while working to create a more supportive network beyond it. Grades 5-8. --Carolyn Phelan