From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6–In this companion to Codell's Sahara Special
( Hyperion, 2003), fifth-grader Paris McCray reveals what she has discovered about life in the process of taking piano lessons from Mrs. Rosen, a Holocaust survivor with a sense of humor. The girl's parents; her four older brothers; and the cast of characters from Miss Pointy's class, including best friends Sahara and Luz, keep the proceedings lively. Paris is an explorer of her universe, and words (often italicized) matter to her; her engaging narrative voice is noteworthy for its perseverance, charm, and wit. Her naïveté and, at times, ignorance cause her to make mistakes, but she begins to understand the choices of those around her. Youngest brother Michael's unwillingness to hit a bullying girl back; Mrs. Rosen's gift to her of a yellow star; and the ethical requirements of her own project, the Extreme Readers Club, ask much of Paris, but she is more than up to their challenges. Codell skillfully balances sadness with moments of laughter to keep readers hooked throughout. Touching and funny in equal measure, this short novel addresses innocence, guilt, and atonement and will have an intense impact on readers.–Carol A. Edwards, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO
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Codell's new book, a companion to Sahara
Special (2003), is narrated by Sahara's self-confident African American classmate, Paris McCray, who is trying to understand an increasingly confusing world. Paris' gentle older brother is regularly beaten up by her fifth-grade classmate; her piano teacher was once a spy and has numbers tattooed on her arm. Armed with incomplete information, Paris tries to right some wrongs, and Codell lays out the painful results with a blessedly light touch. Addressing such subjects as the Holocaust, bullying, God's presence, and (in a subtle way that will go over many readers' heads) AIDS, the novel makes a convincing case for rose-colored glasses, dancing the can-can, and playing joyful music with your big brother. Codell gives Paris some vivid companions, most notably Mrs. Rosen and brothers Michael and Louis, but the book's star is Paris, who forges past self-doubt to a wider outlook. Here's hoping Codell turns to another of Sahara's classmates for further revelations about a formative age. Abby NolanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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