My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Robinson Hart isn’t a baby robin. She’s the only person to stand up to Alex Carter, the biggest bully in fifth-grade, and he’d better watch his mouth. Grandpa taught her how to seal transmission fluid, but nothing’s going to seal Alex’s mouth or the bloody nose she just gave him. “Robbie” Robinson’s a spitfire and a darn good baseball player. Her best friend Derrick, the opposite of everything she is, runs to her aid on the schoolyard, proclaiming it’s not her fault. “That’s why people need moms, or they end up like her,” Alex Baby Carter cries in defense.
Robinson’s never known her mother or father. All she’s had is Grandpa even if people stare, wondering how they could be related. He’s a black man, and she’s white, he raised her and named her after Jackie Robinson. Now it’s she, who’s taking care of him. Grandpa’s showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and Robbie hates when he’s called into school, on days she’s forgotten to count to ten or read baseball stats in her head to calm down. Whenever I’m bad he forgets more.
Robbie’s wants suspension, then she can help Grandpa in the garage all day, every day for the rest of her life. She’s really good at it, good thing because Grandpa’s forgetting his words and his memory gets tired, and she can’t have anyone wondering if he’s unfit to raise a child. She’s his right-hand and Harold, who’s practicing to be a dad while awaiting an adoption with his partner Paul, is Grandpa’s left-hand in the garage. She knows everything about repairing cars and tapping sugar maple trees.
When her fifth-grade class is given a family tree assignment. Robbie doesn’t know her mother’s name or anything about her family, and her grandfather’s quickly forgetting everything. Robbie needs to find out. Gloria, the guidance counselor, invites a group to discuss their emotions and work on the family tree project, but there’s no way Robbie’s having any of it. Especially since Gloria invited the bully, Alex Carter into the group.
A heartfelt and realistic depiction of living with someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s particularly painful reading how a child deals with her grandfather’s struggle. A beautifully written book, with great sensitivity, along with fantastic baseball and mechanic metaphors, we also learn a little about tapping sugar maples in Vermont. And what it looks like when we misjudge others and the lives they live, or the suffering we know nothing about, and then discovering your archenemy might have a heart after all.
Suggested grade level: 3-7. A moving and powerful reading experience.
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