From School Library Journal
Grade 4–6—Ten-year-old Jamie Jo Morgan is deathly afraid of bees since she watched a movie in which the young main character dies of a bee sting. She spends most of summer vacation inside unless her mother is with her carrying a flyswatter. She longs for a friend, a wish that comes true when a girl her age moves into her neighborhood. A series of events, beginning with her mother's exclusion from the church choir because she can't sing, cause Jamie Jo to question her faith in God and face her fears. Jamie's struggles and questions are met with wisdom, humor, and a positive attitude especially through the character of Mrs. Morgan. Payne gives the story enough realistic family and friend imperfections to keep readers interested and the plot from taking on a syrupy-sweet edge. Christian ideals are shown in behaviors rather than preached. This uplifting story contains much to appeal to a broad audience.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH
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*Starred Review* Jamie Jo Morgan, a 10-year-old living in Franklin, Kentucky, is afraid of bees. So afraid she doesn’t leave the house without her mother, making sure Mama is brandishing a flyswatter. As the summer wears on, her bee “allergy” inhibits her greatly. When a new girl, Rafi, moves across the street, Jamie Jo is afraid to go over alone. But then Rafi puts out a Puppies for Sale sign, and Jamie Jo has a decision to make. Having a puppy is a deeply held dream, but how can she care for one if she can’t take it out for a walk? Payne, a first-time novelist, offers a book that, like The Penderwicks (2006), harkens back to such perennial favorites as the Moffats series and the works of Elizabeth Enright. There is more, though, as Payne takes a familiar story line about childhood fears and adds a Christian bent. An explosion at the church offers both Jamie Jo and readers the opportunity to ponder the mysterious ways of the Lord. And unlike many books for middle-graders, the adults here are fully fleshed-out characters, whose foibles are seen clearly through a child’s eyes. The word wholesome sometimes gets a bad rap, but here it’s leavened by gentle humor and considerable insight, and it fits this book just fine. Grades 4-6. --Ilene Cooper