Eight Keys

Eight Keys

So, exactly how hard can it be to move up from the fifth grade to the sixth grade? And from your fifth grade self to your sixth grade self? Elise Bertrand is about to step into the first day of middle school and the first day of feeling as though she isn't sure who she is or who she even wants to be. Having lost both parents early in life, her mother in child birth and her father a few years later to cancer, she has been lovingly cared for by her Aunt Bessie, a caterer, and her Uncle Hugh, a woodworker. Life has also given her a great gift in her best friend, Franklin, the kind of friend who can be sitting on your bed first thing in the morning as your eyes open and it feels right. Elise and Franklin did not know they were expected to leave childhood behind as they moved into the sixth grade so they still play knights together and they build things together and they cook together. They know each other's quirks and foibles and it's all been good but suddenly, Elise begins to see herself and Franklin through the eyes of a bully named Amanda who is assigned to share a locker with Elise. Elise begins to see a lot of things differently and none of it feels good. Middle school really isn't like elementary school at all and as though we are watching through a video camera, we follow along as Elise painfully starts to protect herself from ridicule and bullying by putting down her best friend. Even more painfully we are the witnesses as Elise begins to give up on herself. With exquisite craftsmanship, Suzanne LaFleur has laid down each flinch, each moment of stunning confusion, and each heartwrenchingly defenseless scene that Elise is facing day after day. It's an utterly realistic portrayal of the moments of a middle schooler's day that are such crushing blows to innocent selves. Can Elise emerge as the butterfly we are all rooting for? Will she lose the wonder of her friendship with Franklin along with the wonder and self-satisfaction of her younger self? Will the magical keys that begin appearing unexpectedly in her home lead Elise to treasure? This is a story is about being lost for a time and it offers a magical journey back to all things important: love, family, friendship, and honoring your authentic self. Well done! 215 pages Ages 10-13

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“There were eight locked doors upstairs in the barn. Eight of them! Could those be for me? …But now I was ready for something to be different. For anything to be different.  Tomorrow I’d take a chance and see what that key opened up.  It had my name on it, after all.”

At the start of sixth grade, Elise is ready for a change.  She has been friends with her neighbor Franklin since like forever and she has started to notice that Franklin is a little strange.  With a bumpy start to the school year and a rough time with her locker partner, Elise needs something to give her meaning.  Then her twelfth birthday comes, and with it a key that could unlock her past and give direction to her present.

224 pages

ISBN-13: 978-0385740302

Reviewed by:  Alice L. Cyphers, Librarian, Pennsylvania, USA

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