This slim volume, with mustard-yellow covers and gold block lettering on its spine, is absolutely not what you expect it to be. The writing is quiet and thoughtful -- just like Evelyn, our 5th-grade main character. Her regimented existence is conveyed through small, ordinary details. When Queen enters the picture, it's with gentle ripples, not splashes. The book perfectly captures that invigorating first time of getting to know a person whose life is radically different than your own. It makes Evelyn (and readers, too) wonder: What if we proudly exhibited our differences, instead of hiding them? Sometimes the thrill in getting to know someone new lies in discovering more about yourself.
Evelyn is both aghast and fascinated when a new boy comes to grade five and tells everyone his name is Queen. Queen wears shiny gym shorts and wants to organize a chess/environment club. His father plays weird loud music and has tattoos. How will the class react? How will Evelyn? Evelyn is an only child with a strict routine and an even stricter mother. And yet in her quiet way she notices things. She takes particular notice of this boy named Queen. The way the bullies don't seem to faze him. The way he seems to live by his own rules. When it turns out that they take the same route home from school, Evelyn and Queen become friends, almost against Evelyn's better judgment. She even finds Queen irritating at times. Why doesn't he just shut up and stop attracting so much attention to himself? Yet he is the most interesting person she has ever met. So when she receives a last-minute invitation to his birthday party, she knows she must somehow persuade her mother to let her go, even if it means ignoring the No Gifts request and shopping for what her mother considers to be an appropriate gift, appropriately wrapped with "boy" wrapping paper. Her visit to Queen's house opens Evelyn's eyes to a whole new world, including an unconventional goody bag (leftover potato latkes wrapped in waxed paper and a pair of barely used red sneakers). And when it comes time for her to take something to school for Hype and Share, Evelyn suddenly looks at her chosen offering -- her mother's antique cream jug -- and sees new and marvelous possibilities.
About the Author
Sara Cassidy is a poet, journalist and novelist and the author of six books for young readers, including Double Play and Skylark. Her books have been selected for the Junior Library Guild, and she has been a finalist for the Chocolate Lily Award and the Bolen Books Children's Book Prize. She has also won a National Magazine Award (Gold) for a piece in Today's Parent. Sara has taught at Camosun College and she is co-founder and past artistic director of the Victoria Writers Festival. saracassidywriter.com