Coyote Queen

HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Oct. 2023. 272p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063314405.
Gr 6-8–Twelve-year-old Fud lives in a trailer in the-middle-of-nowhere, Wyoming, with her mother and her mother’s alcoholic boyfriend Larry. She’s desperate for a way out, wishing she could be as free and wild as the coyotes she sees across the desert. When her spunky new neighbor suggests they sign up for the local beauty pageant, Fud is skeptical until she learns about the prize money. The money could be her ticket to a better life. As Larry’s behavior escalates and her mom falls further into denial, Fud begins having strange dreams and visions where she transforms into one of the coyotes she has so long admired, and the pageant becomes more important than ever. This is a story about the effects domestic abuse has on a child. The well-rounded characters and strong pacing are excellent, but Vitalis’s real strength is in how she portrays the toll abuse takes on children and the hope that exists when one is brave enough to ask for help. To adult readers, Fud’s transformations into a coyote are a coping mechanism; to a child reader, it is magical, and both of these readings show the power of the mind to survive and adapt to trauma.
VERDICT This title deftly tackles a difficult topic that affects far too many children. Purchase for all middle grade collections.

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