SEASONED, AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR: A former children’s librarian, Ellen Wittlinger has written fifteen middle-grade and YA novels and has won a Printz Honor and a Lambda Literary Award.
LIKEABLE, RELATABLE CHARACTERS: From Maisie to Cyrus to Uncle Walt, Wittlinger provides readers with a lovable (and flawed) cast of characters who deal with relatable, everyday issues.
POIGNANT CONTENT: Through Maisie’s cinematic escapades, Wittlinger addresses a variety of issues with tact and humor, tackling middle-grade sexuality (and self-awareness), mental health (and family dynamics), and socio-economic challenges (and differences).
Twelve-year-old film buff Maisie’s weekly routine of seeing movies with her friend Cyrus is disrupted when Gary joins in. Maisie may not feel ready for dating or anything like it, but Gary has an evident crush on her, Cyrus has a secret crush on Gary, and suddenly everything’s complicated. Meanwhile, her grandmother is showing signs of dementia, and her sympathetic but flighty uncle is staying with the family while he recovers from an injury—all of which fuels conflicts about family duty. Distinctive characterization is a significant strength here, and Maisie’s response to Cyrus’s coming-out is all her own—she’s upset at first not for conventional reasons but because of her fear of change and maybe, just maybe, because of her own feelings for Gary. A late-in-life romance for Grandma makes the family story line lighter than it otherwise might be, but the novel acknowledges that, like the many films it references, its story ends at “a good stopping point,” which doesn’t mean everything’s perfect. Tweens who are wondering what their relationships, and their romantic relationships, will look like as they grow up should find plenty to think about in this honest novel.
—The Horn Book
Twelve-year-old Maisie loves seeing old movies at the local theater with her best friend Cy, and she worships her Uncle Walt, who is in Hollywood trying to make it as an actor. When Walt injures himself on set and comes to stay with Maisie’s family, she’s overjoyed to have him visit. Less excited is Maisie’s mother, who feels that Walt has abandoned his family responsibilities, especially after Maisie’s grandmother starts displaying signs of memory loss. Worried about her grandmother, Maisie is also grappling with the fact that Gary, a classmate with a crush on her, has started horning in on her time with Cy. When Cy reveals that he “like likes” Gary, Maisie tries to figure out how it will affect their relationship and her own changing feelings for Gary. Wittlinger (Local Girl Swept Away) packs this sensitive coming-of-age story with movie references and trivia, but even readers less cinema obsessed than Maisie will sympathize with her conflicting desires to grow up and stay young forever. Her loyalty to Cy is especially moving, as is Wittlinger’s portrait of dementia’s impact.
Maisie, 12, is in the midst of several quandaries. She and her best friend, Cy, have become a trio, and Maisie is afraid that new addition Gary Hackett likes her. Then it becomes clear that Cy likes Gary. Ménage à trouble! In addition, Maisie’s actor uncle has moved back to their small house to recover from an accident, her grandmother is showing signs of dementia, and her mother loses her job. Tensions boil, but Maisie finds relief at the old movie theater in town, where she and Cy are regulars. The theater is owned by grumpy Mr. Schmitz, who has had his own decades-long crush—on Maisie’s grandmother. If this sounds like a full plate, it is, but each morsel is quite tasty, and veteran writer Wittlinger balances plots with aplomb. Some scenarios are more rosy than realistic, as in the cases of Cy’s coming out to an unruffled Gary. Yet it is the novel’s hopeful aspects that make this such an enjoyable read. Happily, all the (many) movies referenced throughout are listed at the book’s conclusion.
For twelve-year-old Maisie, watching old movies at the Lincoln Theater every Saturday with her best friend Cyrus provides a much-needed escape from the uncertainties she faces in real life. Her grandmother’s increasing forgetfulness and her family’s tight financial situation mean everyone but Maisie is less than thrilled when Uncle Walk — who is an actor in Hollywood — comes to stay after a recent on-set injury. Since Uncle Walt is one of the few adults who always understands her, Maisie is delighted, and when she finds herself in the center of a middle-school love triangle between herself, Cyrus, and their new friend, Gary, she needs Uncle Walt’s guidance more than ever. The book provides entertaining yet affecting portrayals of the different types of young love people experience and witness — from love between family members and friends to budding romantic love to even love found late in life, which Maisie witnesses through her grandmother’s unexpected reconnection with an old flame. The Use of first-person narration adds authenticity to Maisie’s perspective as readers gain insight into her inner thinking and responses to pivotal life situations (e.g. when Cyrus tells Maisie that he is gay and that he likes Gary). Wittlinger presents a moving coming-of-age story that will feel relevant to tween readers, particularly those wrestling with the notion of what it means to grow up and what it means to experience and witness love in its many forms.
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
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