MG Realistic Fiction Review: Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley
Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, Illustrations by Jillian Tamaki Format: E-ARC Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giorux Books for Young Readers Number of Pages: 130 Expected Date of Publication: October 4th, 2016 Source: Edelweiss Above the Treeline
I first heard about Gertie's Leap to Greatness from Entertainment Weekly, who referred to her as "the new Ramona Quimby." I knew that this was a book that I would defiantly need to read, it just sounded like it was going to be really sweet and funny.
Opening Line: "The bullfrog was only half dead, which was perfect." When Gertie was still little her mother moved out of their house, but she didn't go very far. She still lives in the same town, just up the street, and right along Gertie's bus route to school. Gertie rides past her mom, Rachel Collins house on the way to school every day, sometimes even catching a glimpse of her. On this day, though, there is a for sale sign outside Rachel's house and Gertie knows it is time to start her next mission. She plans to prove to her mother that she is "the best fifth grader in the whole world." The first step is the speeches given at the beginning of the year in each of the elementary classes on the most extraordinary thing that happened to them on their summer vacation. Gertie has the perfect story all planned out, one that will ensure her success. Who can top resuscitating a frog? Unfortunately, new girl, Mary Sue Spivey comes along stealing the spotlight, so Gertie will have to work even harder to show her mom just how special she is. Gertie's Leap to Greatness reads like a classic story with a memorable main character, strong messages, and has the same appeal of a Ramona Quimby book. I can see this as a class read along. One of my favorite scenes was Gertie's reaction to her Aunt serving peas for dinner, the very same reaction I would have had at her age. What makes it most fun are the black and white illustrations by Jillian Tamaki. While reading, I really couldn't help feeling for poor Gertie, she struck me as a very lonely girl. Like Gertie, I was trying to understand why her mother left in the first place, and those feelings that Gertie had of not feeling like she wasn't important enough for her mother, really made me want to give her a really big hug. The sad thing is there are kids out there now who probably desperately want that love and affection and can relate to much of what Gertie felt too. This passage of Gertie trying to process what it felt like for her mother living with them before she moved out really touched me " being with them was like wearing a pair of shoes that were too tight. You could limp along for a while, but your feet would just hurt more and more until you were sure that if you walked one step further in those shoes, they'd squeeze your toes off." The loneliness that Gertie must have felt being in the same town as her mother, seeing her house, even running into each other once in awhile. And now her mother was getting ready to get remarried and move away. I really came to dislike Gertie's mother. At least Gertie had her Aunt Rae at home, who always seemed to look out for her. Gertie is such a smart, lovely little girl and her optimistic personality really seems to shine through. She's the first to point out when her father tries to explain that her mother left because she wasn't happy , that "although sometimes she isn't happy about going to school, she still has to go and she's never happy about going to church, but Aunt Rae makes her go." A character that I won't soon forget. Ultimately the story is less about the reasons why Gertie's mom left and more about Gertie's realization that she doesn't need to prove anything to her mother. That she is good enough just the way she is, and she is "gleaming with greatness." Overall, a very lovely story and I look forward to seeing what Kate Beasley writes next. You can read an excerpt of chapter one from Macmillan Press here or better yet buy a copy when it releases on October 4th. *Disclaimer: All quotes are from an uncorrected proof and are subject to possible change*