By Carol Fenner
Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
224 pages (paperback)
Yolanda is a great big girl and strong for her age, bigger and stronger and smarter than anyone else in the fifth grade. She is cool and streetwise, too, and afraid of no one. It's easy for her to watch out for her little, first-grade brother, Andrew. But their mother, a legal professional and a widow, is concerned about crime and drugs in her children's Chicago school. She moves them all to a smaller and, she hopes, smaller town.
Yolanda, at first, is scornful of her new town. And Andrew, who never talks much, is having trouble learning to read. What he loves to do is play on the old harmonica given to him as a baby by his father to teethe on and which he's kept blowing ever since. He can imitate any sound he hears, like bacon sizzling, or express any mood he feels, like the freshness of an early morning. Yolanda understands that that's the way he "talks." She is convinced Andrew is a true genius with a great musical gift. But no one else believes it—not her mother, nor Andrew's teachers, not even wonderful Aunt Tiny in Chicago. Yolanda sets out to open up adult eyes, a task whose strategies will call on far more than her physical toughness. Her plans crystallize on a visit back to Chicago to enjoy the great annual blues festival with Aunt Tiny.
Carol Fenner, whose previous book Randall's Wall has reached a wide audience throughout the country, has created a daring heroine in Yolanda and a warm portrayal of an African-American family in a story that moves with mounting intensity to a dramatic, believable, and a wholly satisfying conclusion.
After moving from Chicago to Grand River, Michigan, fifth grader Yolonda, big and strong for her age, determines to prove that her younger brother is not a slow learner but a true musical genius.
Yes, [I would recommend this book to a middle schooler]. It shows how to not give up. I liked all the things that it teaches you because it helps you become a better person. I think it could have had a little bit more action in it because it can be boring.
---Reviewed by Curtis
Yes, [I would recommend this book to a middle schooler] because it helps people realize that they could be a genius. I think it has a good message because it tells kids anyone can be a genius.
---Reviewed by Favour
[I would recommend this book to a middle schooler] because it shows that she really cares for her brother.
---Reviewed by Wyatt
Yes, [I would recommend this book to a middle schooler]. It has a good plot and theme plus it is very interesting.
---Reviewed by Emma
No, [I would not recommend this book to a middle schooler] because it is kind of boring because of no action. It has a good theme: friends are important.” It could have had more action.
---Reviewed by Garrett
Yes, [I would recommend this book to a middle schooler]. It is entertaining and at a good level. I think it was good because connecting is something you can do pretty well with the book. The setting is similar to our setting and the reader can have both sympathy and empathy for the characters. Some parts were hard to understand. Also, I would have enjoyed it more if the point of view didn’t randomly jump around.
---Reviewed by Anna
I wouldn’t [recommend this book to a middle schooler] because it is depressing. It was good because it tells a story about expressing yourself. It didn’t have to be so sad.
---Reviewed by Jaida
Yes, [I would recommend this book to a middle schooler] because it is not too long and not too short. It teaches you a really good lesson.
---Reviewed by Kaylee
Yes, [I would recommend this book to a middle schooler] because it’s a really good book. The good part was her trying to get Andrew on stage. It was good because it was nice of her to help her brother. [I didn’t like] her not being honest to the cops.
---Reviewed by Hayven
Yes, [I would recommend this book to a middle schooler]. It tells a story that says “don’t give up on your dreams!” This book is good because it really tells you important lessons and how to handle things that might come in the way of your dreams. It could have used more detail about what happens next.
---Reviewed by Alyson
Yes, [I would recommend this book to a middle schooler]. It is appropriate and interesting. You could relate to the book a lot because Yolanda is twelve and goes through some of the same struggles as middle schoolers today do. Some parts were kind of slow and boring and made me just want to skip ahead.
---Reviewed by Claire