On the day Georgia Weathers’s mother, Blythe, leaves their small Maine town with an old flame, Blythe buys Georgia a bearded dragon, Freddy. One year and eight months later, now 11-year-old Georgia, who is white, and her best friend Maria Elena Garcia, who is Mexican American, meet Roland Park, a redheaded new arrival in Prospect Harbor. When Roland, a foster child, shoplifts from the pet shop, the girls chase after him, and a friendship is born. And Georgia will need her friends when her mother announces that she, her new husband, and Rosie, Georgia’s baby half sister, are moving back to town. Georgia loves Rosie on first sight, but her plan to shove her stepfather out of the picture and reunite her parents proves difficult as her mother becomes increasingly challenging and requests more of Georgia. Over the course of the summer, Georgia and her friends must lean on one another as they each face different family struggles. Long (Josie Bloom and the Emergency of Life) offers an honest, accessibly written look at family and the challenges of loving people who may prove hurtful, one that’s both raw and warm in its compassionate telling. Publishers Weekly
Georgia is given Freddy, a bearded dragon, as a pet by her mother, Blythe, who abandons her that very same day.
Blythe runs away with her boyfriend, Lyle, leaving Georgia with her quiet, devoted father, Stanley. Georgia, 11, longs for Blythe to return—and makes Freddy a proxy for her mother’s love, vowing to do her best for him. Georgia’s life is further upended when a larger-than-life boy arrives in their small Maine town, a foster child taken in by a highly religious family. Roly’s acquaintance with Georgia and her best friend, Maria, begins after he steals a cat collar from the pet store. Despite witnessing this shocking event, the girls become good friends with him, and the three find a secret refuge in the woods, a glass house that ultimately becomes a danger zone. Strong friendships, parental love (and neglect), and resilient children feature in this slice-of-contemporary-small-town life. Georgia copes with her situation through help from peers and sympathetic adult friends (Maria’s paternal grandmother plays an important role, giving Georgia loving advice). This is a realistic, sometimes humorous, sometimes sad family story; while Blythe has problems with alcohol, both Stanley and Lyle turn out to be good fathers. The book follows a White default for most characters; Maria is Mexican American.
A sincere story of caring and community in the face of family struggles. Kirkus Reviews
If your students liked Kate DiCamillo's Raymie Nightingale collection, then this is a must read! Adults in Georgia’s life confuse her while friends, new & old, help her navigate the many changes she encounters. Life is messy for these complicated, layered characters. Kind Stranger on Goodreads