Over the summer, I read The Perfect Place, a debut novel by Teresa Harris. Here’s my review which appears in the September issue of School Library Journal:
“In this moving and insightful debut, 12-year-old Treasure is tired of moving from place to place every time her unreliable father leaves the family. At the opening of the novel, Treasure’s father is gone and her mother leaves her and her younger sister, Tiffany, with their Great-Aunt Grace in the small town of Black Lake, Virginia. Treasure does not want to be there, and her introduction to her no-nonsense relative only strengthens her resolve to stay detached during her mother’s absence. Great-Aunt Grace does not mince words. Among the first things she tells Treasure and Tiffany are her rules: “I don’t take no sass,” she says before pulling out her ever present pack of cigarettes. While working in Grace’s small candy store, Treasure begins to meet other memorable residents of Black Lake, including Terrance, a boy with whom she tentatively establishes a friendship, and Jaguar, a wealthy girl who purposely causes trouble for the protagonist. It is Great-Aunt Grace, however, who steals the show. While readers expect that she is concealing a kinder heart than she’s willing to expose, the development of the genuinely warm relationship between Treasure and Grace is memorable. Harris weaves humor, a light mystery, and a tender coming-of-age story in this unforgettable novel. Each of the characters, including minor ones, are well-drawn with distinctive and authentic voices. Like Dorothy in Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, Treasure learns that she was already in the “perfect place,” but her journey to that realization is rich and rewarding.” (Grades 5-7)
Harris’s book will be released on November 4, but if you know a thoughtful young reader, add it to their list. The Perfect Place would also be a good read-aloud for a 5th or 6th grade classroom. Many well-defined characters and funny situations that kids will enjoy.
This is my favorite image from the first week of school. Our middle school students went camping and while there, they read Paul Fleischman’s short novel, Seedfolks. This student seems to have found a “perfect place” to read….
For those of you who teach students in grades 5 and up, Seedfolks is an ideal book for this time of year. The story of a vacant garden that becomes a meeting place for a diverse group of characters, it emphasizes the value of working together to create something beautiful, gardens as places of growth and renewal, and hope.