Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!
Synopsis: Okay, so Naomi Marie knows her mother is getting ...serious about someone. That's what she's overheard. It doesn't really matter to her; she knows who her Dad is, and he's just a couple blocks away, and that's fine. She'll help out with her overly enthusiastic baby sister, who is only four, and doesn't really know how to feel about things -- she'll be a good example. It's what Dad would want from her, right? And anyway, she's busy with the library clubs she's starting. Eventually, ONE will catch on, and people will come and hang out with her. It's the best library in the world, so they'll have to, eventually...
Naomi Edith is named after the famous clothing designer, Edith Head ... and that name keeps Naomi E. close to her designer mother, away in California, working madly as a costumer on various plays and films. Regretfully, with the time and distance between them, Naomi E's mother has little time to talk to her daughter anymore, but Naomi E. cherishes the traditions she made with her mother - their favorite bakery on Saturdays, their ability to talk about any and everything. With her best friend in the backyard, too many snacks with Dad to mention, Naomi E. keeps faith with how their family used to be. It helps, keeping things the same, to fill the yawning chasm in her insides that the word 'California' leaves inside...
Naomi Marie and Naomi E's parents are having "meet-the-family" meetings, and the Naomis get squished together. Then, their Saturdays are interrupted with "family" outings. It's fine for Naomi Marie's baby sister, who really thinks everything is just awesome, but for the Naomis, who have their own friends and their own particular preferences, it's all getting to be A Little Too Much. And then, there's the class that eats up the rest of their Saturdays. Surely, it won't hurt to do a project together... if Naomi E. would do something. Naomi Marie just wants everything to be PERFECT. Is that so wrong?
Inevitably, the girls clash in earnest. Feelings are hurt, expectations are disappointed, and there are many tears. While readers see the fallout coming, the way the girls resolve things, for the good of everyone, is true grace under fire.
Observations: A lot of YA and MG books are predicated on the fact that adults are occasionally absolutely, drastically, painfully blind to how kids feel about things. This book has such a decidedly, strongly, realistically kid's-eye-view on things that it's hard to read as an adult. My kid brain was sputtering with rage a lot of the time. The pushing - and the pushback - and the digging in of heels on both sides was Real and readers will really feel it.
This was a delightfully urban setting - the girls walked, rode the bus, and their families used ZipCars on the weekend to get where they needed to go. (The complaints about the new car smell wearing off were realistic and amusing.) That Naomi Marie is black is also included in myriad aspects of the narrative - she's not just described and abandoned; her sister goes to Little Nubian playgroup, Naomi Marie takes African Dance. While Naomi E. has less culturally specific interests, care is taken to differentiate her as an individual as well.
Though the girls are listed as ten-year-olds, older readers - and younger readers - may find this a valuable book, because there's a lot of information and discussion and rumination on how to get along with others - a skill many grade school and middle grade kids truly struggle with for a while until getting the hang of things.
Conclusion: I'm glad I finally got around to writing up this book; it's on my list of books for strong girls displaying strength. The Naomis are strong because they aren't railroaded into anything; they CHOOSE their behavior and their acceptance and their level of effort. I love that about them - it's not all sunshine and roses, but they make their own road. A delightful book for kids going through a divorce and family blending, or for kids coping with a sudden influx of family members, as I experienced periodically through childhood.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the Newark Public Library. You can find TWO NAOMIS by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich & Audrey Vernickat an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!