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Grade 4–6—Eleven-year-old Lily is not happy when her single mother decides to move them from a small town to a city. Her mother's long hours at her new job and a class bully don't help. But Lily has a gecko that she loves, and her neighbor and sitter, Mrs. Hiller, introduces her to the owner of a pet store, Bernard, and his adult son, Nate, who has Down syndrome. The characters, including Lily's new friend, Gina, the class nerd, are fully realized individuals. Nate is especially well drawn, and he becomes a true friend to Lily. As the story develops, she begins to understand that life is not always fair. With its finely tuned plot and poetic language, this novel compares well with Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie (Candlewick, 2000) in character development and plot. Children will enjoy the story of Lily's first few months in the big city.—Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD
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When Mom accepts a new job in Riverside Heights, 10-year-old Lily must cope with living in a bigger city, missing her best friend, and a bully at her new school. She accepts a part-time job at a neighborhood pet store where she meets Nate, an adult with Down syndrome who helps her to rescue three iguana eggs. When Lily tries to do something nice for Nate, he misunderstands, and his unleashed temper results in terrible consequences. The author of Hershey Herself and The Patron Saint of Butterflies (both 2008) here offers middle-grade readers a thoughtful look at friendship and family. Lily is curious about her father and why he left when she was a baby; Nate mistakenly feels responsible for his mother's death; and bully Amanda has everything money can buy but spends most of her time in the care of a housekeeper instead of her parents. Galante offers no quick fixes, but these strong characters come to accept their circumstances and move forward, more secure with the imperfect families they have. Grades 3-6. --Kay WeismanSee all Editorial Reviews