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Life in the fifth grade is anything but pleasant for Pixie in her new school. Of course, it doesn’t help that she has a prickly spirit and harshly judges her teacher and fellow students.

Behind her snappish exterior, though, Pixie is hurting—badly—as she comes to terms with her mother’s death, her family’s recent move to her grandparents’ farm, and the fact that her older sister Charlotte contracted polio and was sent away to a hospital. Guilt weighs Pixie down as she believes she is responsible for Charlotte’s plight.

As Pixie longs for friends, but keeps on making enemies, Grandpa wisely tells her, “Sometimes we decide who someone is long before they have a chance to show us who they really are.” Pixie continues to struggle but eventually begins to consider the truth of Grandpa’s words and sees her teacher, classmates, and neighbors with new eyes.

When Pixie’s father gives her a sickly lamb to nurture, he warns her that the animal is not a pet. But Pixie refuses to grasp that Buster—the name she gives him—is a farm animal, first and foremost. Buster becomes Pixie’s confidante of sorts and helps to heal her spirit. Inevitably, though, Pixie faces a harsh reality, another loss, but not alone, with the love and support of her family.

Though this novel for middle school readers touches on some difficult experiences faced by Americans in the 1940s—poverty in the aftermath of the Great Depression, losses and grief in the context of the Second World War, and the reality of contracting a life-changing disease like polio—it does so with a gentle touch, firm hope, and in the context of loving and supportive family, church, and neighbors. (Nancy Paulsen Books)

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