Madame Squidley and Beanie

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Beanie’s mom used to be a lot of fun. She still is, when she pretends to be the amazing fortune-teller, Madame Squidley. But Beanie knows it’s a strain. Mrs. Kingsley has been sick for months, and doctors can’t say exactly what’s wrong. They don’t seem to take the illness very seriously, though. Beanie does. She worries about her mom, and wonders what will happen to her and Jerm, her little brother, if their mother doesn’t get well. Beanie’s friend Charles Sprague has a problem, too — scoliosis, and divorced parents who fight about it. Beanie begins to long for a new mother and a whole new set of friends. Then she discovers that she already has the best family, and the best friend, and that there’s plenty she can do to help them. This is perhaps the most personal story written by Alice Mead, herself a mother with a chronic illness.

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Mead has done her usual good job of creating realistic characters who worry about then solve real problems. Fans of Junebug will enjoy Beanie. — Kirkus Reviews
From School Library Journal

Grade 3-5–Just entering fifth grade, Beanie Kingsley would like to be part of the “in” crowd with popular Miranda Adams. Not only is Miranda cool, but so is her mother, and Mrs. Kingsley is definitely not. In fact, Mom has chronic fatigue syndrome and tires easily. Although she still does amusing things, like pretending to be the fortune-teller Madame Squidley, she is not as much fun as she used to be. Beanie has to take up lots of slack with household chores and with her younger brother. Her friend Charles has problems of his own now that he must wear his back brace more often to correct his scoliosis. Beanie daydreams about a world in which all of her problems disappear. Mrs. Kingsley seems unusually patient and sensitive; her inability to deal with her health issues never seems to disturb her ability to connect with her children or say the right thing. Mead realistically shows how peer pressure prods Beanie into being hurtful to Charles, as well as the girl’s gradual realization about who her true friends are. Although she often feels overwhelmed, the protagonist slowly finds a way to accommodate the unfairness in her life and make changes for the future. This slice-of-life novel depicts kids whose problems are unusual but not insurmountable.–Carol A. Edwards, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO

“Mead offers an insightful and realistic portrait of a young girl emotionally conflicted over her deep love for her mother and her desire for her to be someone different…many readers will see their own thought patterns replicated in Beanie’s obsessing over things she can’t control, and thus Beanie’s epiphany may help guide them toward their own.”– The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
From Booklist

Gr. 4-7. When her mother gets Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Beanie Kingsley has trouble coming to terms with how it changes their lives, adding to Beanie’s chores as well as threatening her mother’s income. The fifth-grader deals with her feelings credibly by lashing out at her best friend and expressing resentment for healthy women such as her teacher. A subplot about the Snob Squad, a clique that Beanie longs to join, borders on cliche, but the family dynamics ring true as Beanie tries to hide her worries from her mother, while her mother, previously so energetic, struggles to find activities she can still do with Beanie and her younger brother. Beanie’s friendship with classmate Charles adds texture to this ultimately insightful portrait of a girl and her family adjusting to a worrisome illness. –Kathleen Odean

The family dynamics ring true…[an] insightful portrait of a girl and her family adjusting to a worrisome illness. — Booklist

Each of my books about kids in other countries–Iran, the Balkans, Sudan–was created when I got to know kids from other cultures who finally had been resettled in my town of Portland, Maine. They are now American kids, my neighbors and yours, who came from poverty and war.

Read about other parts of the world and take a journey there through the eyes of other kids your age. Travel by stories!
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