Holiday House, October 2023
David Curtis, cover art
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Sweetness All Around
Almost-eleven-year-old Josephine is not pleased to be moving into the Happy World trailer park over the summer of 1974. She misses her beautiful bedroom with ballerinas on the wall and her pretty, well-dressed friends. Happy World isn’t happy. It’s dingy and depressing! Nothing like the world that headstrong Josephine wants for herself.
But when Josephine learns that her would-be next door neighbor in Happy World was kidnapped months ago, she develops a begrudging interest in her new home. A kidnapping is exciting—and all signs point to Josephine being meant to find ten-year-old Molly.
Despite her efforts to stay detached, Josephine investigates Molly’s disappearance with help from the eccentric cast of characters living in Happy World. It turns out the rough edges of her community are softer and sweeter than they first seemed. And the unexpected friendships she forms might be more precious than anything she’s ever owned.
In this extraordinary middle grade novel, Suzanne Supplee brings a small Tennessee town and its memorable residents to life. Perfect for daydreamers and unstoppable imaginations. Hand this beautiful, bursting-with-heart read to fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale series..
This funny, moving historical fiction novel set in Tennessee in the summer of 1974 is perfect for fans of such modern classics as Kate Dicamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie and Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky. Ten-year-old Josephine is having a tough summer. After a fire rips through her mom’s business, they are forced to sell many of their possessions and leave their comfortable apartment downtown to move to “Happy World Trailer Park.” Rundown and filled with a bevy of unique 1970s characters, including a motorcycle couple, a hippie couple, and a cranky, “hateful” landlady, the cheerfully named trailer park seems to mock Josephine who struggles to accept her new reality—and isn’t afraid to say so! She is ¬particularly focused on two of her new neighbors: Lisa Marie, a girl her own age who lives with her “granddaddy” and her Uncle Buster Lee, and Helen-Dove, a mother whose 10-year-old daughter Molly was recently kidnapped by relatives. Josephine fixates on Molly’s disappearance and is determined to help find her, eavesdropping and looking for clues to her whereabouts around the trailer park. Readers will easily warm to Josephine, a memorable heroine who is charmingly imperfect and full of vim and vigor. She struggles to keep her always honest but sometimes unkind thoughts to herself and frequently lets her imagination run wild. Supplee has imbued the text with a southern vernacular and sense of place, along with a cast of lovable, realistic characters who are allowed to grow and change with the circumstances of their lives in a satisfying way. VERDICT An excellent, emotional novel sure to make an impact on readers young and old. (Kristy Pasquariello, School Library Journal, starred review)
“Ten-year-old Josephine lives with her mother, who was recently forced to sell most of their belongings before they moved into a trailer in a run-down trailer park. Too angry to be civil, Josephine blames her mother and threatens to run away. Storming out of the trailer, she soon meets Lisa Marie, a friendly girl who welcomes Josephine, tells her about the other residents, and seems content living at the trailer park. When the two decide to search for and rescue another girl who was abducted the previous year from her mother’s trailer, the story takes an unexpected turn toward mystery and adventure. In the end, Josephine comes to appreciate both her mother’s choices and the strengths of their new community. The author of young adult novels such as Artichoke’s Heart (2008), Supplee offers an involving middle-grade tale. Josephine is a likable protagonist who gets caught up in a complicated, possibly dangerous predicament. With a 1974 Tennessee setting and well-drawn main characters, the novel takes readers on a journey with a rewarding conclusion. (Carolyn Phelan, Booklist)
“It’s 1974, and Josephine and Mama have given up their tony apartment and moved into the Happy World Trailer Park, in Glendale, Tennessee. Only problem is, it isn’t a happy place.
“With Josephine’s dad gone and Mama’s sewing business suffering financially, they have no choice. The limited third-person narration describes Josephine’s views of ‘every miserable thing there was to see in Happy World,’ from the rundown trailers to the residents who are facing challenges. Josephine meets Lisa Marie, who’s also 10 and who lives with her granddaddy and great-uncle. Lisa Marie tells her about a girl from the neighborhood named Molly, who was kidnapped nearly a year ago and hasn’t been found. Molly’s mom looks as if she’s barely hanging on. Josephine is struggling, too, but she’s convinced that she and Molly have ‘a kind of sisterhood,’ and she’s sure that if she can rescue Molly, her own circumstances will become bearable. Things move quickly after Josephine recognizes and interprets a clue that might point to Molly’s whereabouts, leading to a thrilling and dangerous climax. The resulting relationships forged are well worth it all. Josephine’s resilience and ability to reassess herself and her situation are admirable. Difficult topics such as divorce, poverty, abduction, terminal illness, and incarceration are thoughtfully and age-appropriately explored. Most characters are cued white.
“Colorfully relayed and gratifying to read.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“I loved this compelling story brimming with mystery, friendship, and hope.” (Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky)