It is a familiar theme for children and adults alike: wanting something so desperately that it blinds us to the things we have in our lives that are truly remarkable. Sometimes, that thing we desire the most is really not the thing we need at all, but it takes a series of struggles and setbacks and triumphs before we are able to reach that critical point of understanding. And so it is with Gertie Reece Foy, the spunky new heroine in Kate Beasley’s fabulous debut novel, Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, with illustrations by Jillian Tamaki.
Equal parts headstrong and lovable, Gertie lives in a small town with her great aunt and often absent father who works on an oil rig. As she gets ready to begin the fifth grade, Gertie’s desire is set forth right from the first pages of the novel: she is determined to become the best fifth grader in the universe so that her mother, who abandoned Gertie when Gertie was just a baby, will notice her before she moves away from their town with her new family. There’s just one problem: Gertie has a new classmate, Mary Sue Spivey. And Mary Sue comes straight from California, has blonde hair, and a father who works with child celebrities. One thing is for sure – there is not enough room for both of them at the top of the fifth grade hierarchy.
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With a pitch perfect voice that feels at once authentic and honest, Gertie Reece Foy will jump out of this book and into your heart. She is a well rounded, flawed but fearless protagonist, tackling a common childhood experience: trying to prove herself and her worth to the important people (or, in this case, person) in her life. Trying to be “the best” at something – often times at the mercy of whoever may stand in your way – feels certain to give you that extra advantage to get you on that path to greatness. But being the best isn’t always the answer. And sometimes, during the struggle to reach the top, we sacrifice anything and everything that stands in the way of getting there, including our closest friends and family. Gertie’s Leap to Greatness is sure to resonate with any young reader so desperately trying to seek the approval of those around them. Exploring themes of friendship and bullying, family and self worth, readers will cheer for Gertie’s victories and sympathize with her struggles. This is a wonderful drawn first novel, with Beasley herself leaping to greatness in the writing world. Beasley is undoubtedly a writer to watch, and I have no doubt that her career will shine as brightly as her debut. Two trunks up!
Want the book? It publishes on October 4, 2016, but you can preorder it here! Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, by Kate Beasley. *This is an affiliate link.