From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7–In brief scenes, like snapshots from an album, Lamstein depicts a 1954 Chicago family on the verge of breakdown. Ruthie Tepper, 12, is the responsible older sister to three brothers, one of whom, Eddy, may be retarded. Her stressed parents own a bookstore, and supporting the family is clearly a struggle. They don't relate to their children, and Mom is angry much of the time. Longing for love and attention, Ruthie boasts that she's been nominated for class president, but gets no reaction from her family. An avid reader, she proudly makes it onto her school's Book Parade
team. Her mother attends the competition, but doesn't compliment her daughter on her exceptional performance until she is startled into noticing it by Ruthie's friend. Overflowing with happiness, the girl begins to talk about the event, only to be cut off by her mother: "Too bad the other team won." Later, as Ruthie's despair boils over, she decides to take Eddy out of the fray and runs away with him. Some readers may be disappointed that there are no major turnarounds here, but the tiny changes after the children are returned by the police–a mother touching her daughter's hand, a father saying thank you to his son–are realistic signs of hope and growth. A good choice for reluctant readers or for children suffering through difficult family situations.–Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL
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Gr. 4-6. There is always homemade cake in 12-year-old Ruth's house, but the nourishment she craves can't be mixed from butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. Ruth's younger brother, Eddy, is mentally slow and physically frail, and he absorbs all her parents' limited attention. Although initially envious of Eddy's central role in the family, Ruth becomes increasingly protective of him as she watches her parents' emotional resources dwindle to a pair of frustration-sharpened points. Lamstein unfolds this 1950s drama in vignettes that trenchantly expose a family sinking into dysfunction. The baby boomer-friendly references and the theme of glossy domesticity shielding darker realities, for which the mother's Betty Crocker-perfect cakes are a rich metaphor, won't be fully appreciated by the middle-grade audience. However, many young readers will sympathize with Ruth's experience of being pushed to the margins by distracted parents and feel empowered by her ability to tug her troubled family toward reconciliation. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved