Ruth Siburt: Author shares amoving experience

Ruth Siburt: Author shares amoving experience

I am one of those rare birds whose entire growing up took place in the same house. Changing addresses only happened to me as an adult. But if you asked me now how I spell stress, I'd answer MOVE.

Melissa Walker's 2017 novel for middle grades, "Let's Pretend We Never Met," ramps up the stress level an extra notch.

Sixth-grader and only child, Mattie Markham's family is not only moving from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, but they're doing it in the middle of the school year during winter break.

Mattie's parents say the move is necessary to help her aging paternal grandmother, Maeve, sort out some things.

Mattie loves her charming, eccentric grandmother and makes the transition with as much grace as an uprooted 11-year-old can muster.

Still, Mattie can't help wondering how she will fit in in her new environment (apartment building in place of a two-story house) and in her new school. Most of all she worries about making friends.

While Mattie is unpacking, there's a banging on her apartment door. Mom and Mattie open it to find Agnes P. Davis, who lives in the next apartment. She tells them she is "11 years, 2 months and four days old."

Agnes invites Mattie to play, and a delightful, if puzzling, round of apartment adventures and projects make winter break fly by.

Agnes is different. That's apparent from the start. But Mattie has Maeve as an example of how different can also mean beautiful, unique and amazing. Agnes is all of these things. She is also forthcoming. Agnes says she is who she is, and that's good. She also tells Mattie, "No matter what happens in school. I'm OK."

Walker weaves a gentle story about the cost of love in friendship and family. She reveals the courage it takes to keep them whole, both for the different and the not different among us.

Decatur native Ruth Siburt is a freelance writer, editor and poet.

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