A Little Bit of Spectacular by Gin Phillips (review)
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Reviewed by
Phillips, Gin    A Little Bit of Spectacular.    Dial, 2015    [160p]
ISBN 978-0-8037-3837-9    $16.99
Reviewed from galleys                                                                R    Gr. 4-6

“We are Plantagenet. We are chosen,” says the bold writing on the bathroom wall of Olivia’s favorite coffee shop, and eleven-year-old Olivia is instantly intrigued. Soon she sees the message elsewhere in town, and she’s determined to find out its meaning. This pursuit provides a welcome distraction for Olivia, who’s ill at ease in her new school and her new home (she and her mother have moved in with her grandmother) and who’s worried about her mother’s recovery from recent illness and surgery. Phillips (author of The Hidden Summer, BCCB 7/13) writes with clarity and understanding of Olivia’s struggle to reboot herself in a new situation; it’s refreshing that Olivia is neither star nor outcast, just somebody who can’t remember the skills that got her friends before, so once she does get some age-mate contact she makes friends fairly readily. The Plantagenet explanation doesn’t live up to its initial mystery, but then that’s the almost inevitable fate of any such tantalizing hint; the underlying story of Olivia’s anxiety about her mother and difficulty in letting go of her caretaking role spools out subtly underneath the main plot and deftly intersects with it. Offering both accessibility and originality, this will enrich the middle-elementary shelves—and bump up the interest in restroom graffiti. [End Page 463]

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