Candice Phee isn't a typical twelve-year-old girl. She has more than her fair share of quirks, but she also has the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to make sure everyone around her is happy—which is no easy feat when dealing with a pet fish with an identity crisis, a friend who believes he came from another dimension, an age-old family feud, and a sick mom. But she is on a mission. Her methods might be unique, but Candice will do whatever it takes to restore order to her world and make sure everyone is absolutely, categorically happy again.
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Barry Jonsberg is a multiple award–winning writer of young adult and middle-grade novels. He lives and teaches in Darwin, Australia.From School Library Journal:
Gr 4–6—Candice Phee's teacher assigned a 26 paragraph (each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet) long essay on something that has happened in the past. But quirky and literal-minded Candice is unable to express her life in such a concise fashion. Instead, she produces a chapter for each, outlining the unexpected death of her younger sister, an ongoing family feud, a neighbor who claims to be from another dimension, and her pet fish. As she writes, she strives to bring her cherished sense of order to the lives of her loved ones by fixing their problems through one grand gesture at a time. Candice is a strong central character, full of personality and a desire to bring happiness to those around her at any cost. The interwoven plots create a rich story, covering a wide expanse that includes loss of a loved one, a caretaker's depression, (possible) brain injuries, and unexpected friendships. The humor laced throughout can be uneven at times, moving from a serious moment to absurd imagery so quickly that readers may need to take pause. Candice takes similar hairpin turns from being incredibly literal, fact-focused and cognizant of social cues, to making large lapses in judgment. The issue of her seemingly ignored pen pal letters, interspersed throughout the alphabetical chapters, also ties up a bit too neatly at the end. This is a strong readalike for Counting by 7s (Dial, 2013) and Out of My Mind(S. & S., 2010).—Nicole Signoretta Sutton, Kingston Elementary School, Cherry Hill, NJ
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