20 Aug / So B. It by Sarah Weeks
Heidi is not your average soon-to-be-13-year-old: “One thing I knew for a fact, from the time I knew anything at all, was that I didn’t have a father. What I had was Mama and Bernadette, and as far as I was concerned, that was plenty.” Kind and gentle Mama with her 23-word vocabulary is mentally challenged. Bernadette who lives in the adjoining apartment has “angora phobia” and hasn’t been able step beyond her door in years.
What she lacks in mobility, Bernie makes up for in patience, nurturing, love, and endless books. From the time Heidi was a wailing infant, Bernie has always been there to take care of both mother and child. The threesome lives in Reno, Nevada, especially convenient for Heidi’s special talent … when the grocery money gets a little low, Heidi trots down to the slot machine in the back of the local laundromat and always wins. She never abuses her luck, which is probably why it never runs out.
When Heidi finds a used roll of film in the back of a drawer and has it developed, she finds more questions than answers. The photographs reveal her younger mother, maybe even a grandmother, and “a big sign with green letters sign that said Hilltop Home, Liberty, New York.” In spite of Bernie’s insistent advice that “‘There are some things in life you just cannot know,'” Heidi wants to know at least the story contained in the mysterious pictures. Determined … and alone … she sets out on a cross-country quest to discover her own self.
As unlikely as Heidi’s journey might seem, author Sarah Weeks has an uncanny knack for making her story utterly believable, not to mention downright entertaining with a few tears thrown in. She reminds us that strangers can sometimes be more reliable than relatives, and true families can come together in the most unpredictable ways. Perhaps because the audible version is narrated by the incomparable Cherry Jones (seeing her on stage at least once in a lifetime should be on everyone’s bucket list!), Heidi’s indomitable spirit immediately jumps off the page, and quickly becomes a feisty young girl well worth cheering for.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult