Sweetness All Around

Holiday House. Oct. 2023. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780823453696.
Gr 4 Up–This funny, moving historical fiction novel set in Tennessee in the summer of 1974 is perfect for fans of such modern classics as Kate Dicamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie and Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky. Ten-year-old Josephine is having a tough summer. After a fire rips through her mom’s business, they are forced to sell many of their possessions and leave their comfortable apartment downtown to move to “Happy World Trailer Park.” Rundown and filled with a bevy of unique 1970s characters, including a motorcycle couple, a hippie couple, and a cranky, “hateful” landlady, the cheerfully named trailer park seems to mock Josephine who struggles to accept her new reality—and isn’t afraid to say so! She is particularly focused on two of her new neighbors: Lisa Marie, a girl her own age who lives with her “granddaddy” and her Uncle Buster Lee, and Helen-Dove, a mother whose 10-year-old daughter Molly was recently kidnapped by relatives. Josephine fixates on Molly’s disappearance and is determined to help find her, eavesdropping and looking for clues to her whereabouts around the trailer park. Readers will easily warm to Josephine, a memorable heroine who is charmingly imperfect and full of vim and vigor. She struggles to keep her always honest but sometimes unkind thoughts to herself and frequently lets her imagination run wild. Supplee has imbued the text with a southern vernacular and sense of place, along with a cast of lovable, realistic characters who are allowed to grow and change with the circumstances of their lives in a satisfying way.
VERDICT An excellent, emotional novel sure to make an impact on readers young and old.

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