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Yolonda's Genius Paperback – January 1, 1997
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From Publishers Weekly
This novel about a girl determined to see her brother's real genius acknowledged won a 1995 Newbery Honor; PW observed that it "merits acclaim for its fresh premise and forceful characterizations." Ages 8-12.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 4^-6. A beautifully drawn portrait of an African American family that escapes the mean streets of Chicago by moving to a small Michigan town. Nearing the end of first grade, Yolonda's younger brother, Andrew, is still unable to read, and Yolonda's widowed mother worries about him and scoffs at Yolonda's dogged insistence that he is a musical genius. Now Yolonda must use all her physical and mental powers to devise a plan to prove to her mother and the world that Andrew is a child prodigy. Dynamic characters and fresh dialogue combine with a compelling story line to draw readers into Yolonda's world. Preteen girls especially will identify with Yolonda's yearning to be noticed by handsome Stoney Buxton and with the awkwardness she experiences at being the new kid in town. Fenner's expertise is most evident in the implausible ending that she somehow makes totally believable. Lauren Peterson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Yolanda quickly adjusts, after initially pining for the familiarity of her old neighborhood and the close proximity to her Aunt Tiny. Aunt Tiny is a large, husky woman with a large heart. She gives her piano to Yolanda, who is plainly talented and enjoys listening to and playing the classics. A delightful, intelligent woman, Aunt Tiny owns several hair salons in Chicago and her work has been featured nationwide and in magazines. Oprah Winfrey was a client at one of her shops.
Yolanda identifies with her aunt. Both are husky and buxom; both are outstanding cooks and both share a love for classical music and reading. Aunt Tiny as well as her sister-in-law, Yolanda and Andrew's mother are professionals who set their sights high.
Andrew, also is musically talented. A harmonica afficionado, the boy has been playing songs and setting background sounds to music since infancy. His harmonica was a gift from his late father, a police officer who died in a fishing accident. Yolanda was 4 at the time.
Andrew has a harder time in school; he rarely talks; cannot read and spends his free time thinking about music. A kind speech teacher takes Andrew under his wing and teaches him to read by applying the lessons to musical terms and interests, e.g. "B is for Bongo," etc. He also teaches Andrew how to read music.
Yolanda is fiercely independent and very bright. She can defend herself against any bully with reason, logic and a well applied foot in some cases. She is also very funny. When a group of older boys demolish her brother's harmonica, Yolanda comes up with a resourceful way of getting even with them and providing a new harmonica for her brother.
This is a wonderful story about a strong, intelligent black family with a very appealing cast of characters. The story ends on quite a blues note! I love it!
And that's really all there is to it. Yolanda's strength is tangible. She's just so realistic: strong, emotional, set in her ways, observant, and most importantly, young. Just in the beginning chapter when she mentions how where they move they better have girls who play double dutch provides such a great window into the psyche of a young, black girl. For girls, especially young, black girls, Yolanda is a fabulous role model. There's a continuous emphasis on her strengths, which is the love for her family, her brother and their collective successes. She doesn't really share the spotlight with anybody, and perhaps that was for the best. Yolanda is such a strong character, adding a secondary female partner would only serve to take away from her impact. I almost didn't think that way; I almost thought that maybe she needed a secondary character in order for us to really see her emotional capabilities and see her forge a relationship with someone, but she has that person: her brother Andrew. It's a really nice deviation away from usual gender roles: younger sister sidekick and the older brother who saves the day. And on another, quieter, note, it addresses socially driven ideas about intelligence: some might disregard Andrew because of his academic incapabilities, but in reality, he's as musically brilliant as they come. Seeing Yolanda as the supporter, as the actual image of physical (and emotional/mental) strength is a really great thing.