Ruth Siburt: New author arrives on scene with inspirational story

Ruth Siburt: New author arrives on scene with inspirational story

There are few things a book reviewer loves more than finding a new and promising author. OK, discovering the pie pixies left a warm rhubarb pie on her counter is close. Still, count me delighted to introduce debut author Kate Beasley's 2016 middle-grade novel from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, "Gertie's Leap to Greatness."

Meet Gertie Reece Foy, fifth-grader extraordinaire. Gertie lives on the Alabama coast with her father and her great-aunt Rae in a house with peeling paint and crooked doorframes.

Her father works on an off-shore oil rig. Her mother, Rachel Collins, lives in town in the "housiest house on Jones Street." Rachel's perfect house has a for sale sign in front of it, which means Gertie needs to show Rachel what a great daughter she's missing out on — pronto!

Gertie believes she can make this happen because, first, Gertie never gives up on a plan, and second, the ponytail on the top of her head encourages "blood flow to her brain," giving her lots of ideas.

Phase one of Gertie's plan to become the most awesome girl in "the whole school, world and universe" begins when Gertie performs a miracle of science by resuscitating a "nearly dead" bullfrog.

Gertie hopes this feat will win her the best summer speech at school. Word should spread from school to Jones Street and Rachel. But, when a new student appears on the scene with her movie-making, environmentally aware family, she grabs Gertie's spotlight and challenges her way of life.

Beasley's novel features whimsical black and white illustrations from Caldecott Honor illustrator Jillian Tamaki interspersed at just the right moments.

Readers will cheer for Gertie and laugh with her. And in the end, they'll know what it means to be the most awesome person in the world — themselves.

Read on!

Ruth Siburt is the author of more than a dozen children's books in the educational field.

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