Review: JUST LIKE JACKIE by Lindsey Stoddard

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You can call her Robinson, you can call her Rob (or even Robbie), but do NOT call her Robin. Alex learns the hard way that Robinson is fed up with him teasing her about her name, and the fact she doesn’t look like her African-American grandfather who raises her. When her short fuse leads to blows a second time, Robinson is sent to her counselor to help her deal with her anger issues, but a family tree project results in Robinson and Alex being put in the same counselling group for students that have challenges completing their tree. Robinson has no one on her tree except Grandpa. She doesn’t know her mom’s name, or how she died, and Grandpa won’t discuss it with her. Grandpa’s memory is getting tired, though, and he often has trouble remembering how to perform simple tasks. Robinson is determined to be his right hand so he can rest his brain, just like Harold is his left hand at his car repair shop. She helps him fix cars. She talks to customers so they won’t hear his words get mixed up. She turns on the signals in the truck so he knows which direction to turn. Robinson is afraid if she doesn’t take care of Grandpa, and get the information she wants about her mom very soon, that he may forget it altogether. As it becomes harder and harder to keep Grandpa’s memory issues a secret, Robinson learns that families are not just made up of the people to whom you’re related.

I can tell you already that this will be on my list of favorite MG reads for 2018. I love books that touch my heart, and watching Robinson try so hard to protect and care for Grandpa as his memory deteriorates from Alzheimer’s is heartbreakingly beautiful. There are too few MG books that focus on intergenerational relationships, like the special bond between a grandparent and grandchild, and this book does that so well. There are a number of supportive and encouraging adults who try to guide Robinson, and although she resists their help, their presence in the story is welcome. Her best friend, Derek, is a delightful, devoted young man, and Robinson’s instinct to protect him at all costs makes me wish everyone could know that kind of friendship. Despite the inevitable outcome of things to come for Robinson and Grandpa, the book ends on a hopeful note for Robinson, and I loved the powerful community there to support her.

This is a wonderful debut novel that I hope will find its way into all middle grade classroom and libraries this year, and I look forward to reading Lindsey’s next MG release, Right as Rain, in early 2019.

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Kathie is a children’s public librarian in Manitoba, Canada, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She is a member of the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Awards (MYRCA) Committee, and co-moderator at MG Book Village. She is passionate about sharing her love for middle grade literature. You can follow her on Instagram (@the_neverending_stack) and Twitter (@kmcmac74).

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