Everyone needs an Aunt Cora and Judith is lucky enough to have her. Aunt Cora is the one who calls her Jubilee because for Aunt Cora, Judith is a celebration. Gideon, the ferry boat captain calls Judith, Red. Judith's used-to-be-best-friend, Sophie, doesn't call her anything any more. Sophie wants nothing to do with her old pal. But Sophie's little brother, Travis, calls Judith No-Talk Girl.
It's the summer just before fifth grade is about to start and Judith is hoping things are about to change for the better. She won't be in the small special class this year. She's been there for a while because she doesn't talk... to anyone. You see, Judith's mother up and left her one day a long way back and since that time, Judith hasn't felt like talking to people. They call this selective mutism. Aunt Cora understands and Aunt Cora has fought to get Judith into the regular fifth grade class.
There's a new teacher for fifth grade this year, Ms. Quirk. Maybe Ms. Quirk will help Judith's wish come true..that wish to be a regular girl. Mr. Kaufman, the school psychologist, says, "We're not fast enough to run away from sorrow." Judith's sorrow caught up with her and is keeping her company.
In a world of ramshackle cottages and secret ponds Judith is searching for her own voice in many ways. She wants to speak up. She wants her mother to come back for her. She wants to have friends and belong on this island among the children she grew up with.
Hope and wonder are all around her. Courage is growing inside her. Trust is coming back.
The story moves quickly as we learn the challenges Jude has to face at school and in herself. There are bright lights in the friends she makes and the people who care about her. There are dark places where the angry and fearful classmates show their mean faces. There are beautiful places in the natural world around her. But this is a poignant story about moving forward, about "take a sad song and make it better."
If I were teaching this one, I would definitely get the Beatles' Hey Jude and play it for the students. Younger readers may not recognize the phrase, Hey Jude, but the words of the song certainly seem to inspire this journey.
Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better. The Beatles
978-0385744867 Ages 8-12 147 pages
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com