by Miriam Spitzer Franklin
Published May 5, 2015
Sky Pony Press
Review copy provided by publisher.
Last spring, Pansy chickened out on going to spring break camp, even though she’d promised her best friend, Anna, she’d go. It was just like when they went to get their hair cut for Locks of Love; only one of them walked out with a new hairstyle, and it wasn’t Pansy. But Pansy never got the chance to make it up to Anna. While at camp, Anna contracted meningitis and a dangerously high fever, and she hasn’t been the same since. Now all Pansy wants is her best friend back—not the silent girl in the wheelchair who has to go to a special school and who can’t do all the things Pansy used to chicken out of doing. So when Pansy discovers that Anna is getting a surgery that might cure her, Pansy realizes this is her chance—she’ll become the friend she always should have been. She’ll become the best friend Anna’s ever had—even if it means taking risks, trying new things (like those scary roller skates), and running herself ragged in the process.
Pansy’s chasing extraordinary, hoping she reaches it in time for her friend’s triumphant return. But what lies at the end of Pansy’s journey might not be exactly what she had expected—or wanted.
I have to admit, looking at the cover of this book, made me think that it was a romantic young adult novel. Instead, it is a heartbreakingly sweet story of friendship and one friend's desperation to get her best friend back after her brain is damaged due to a tragic illness. Pansy is only in 5th grade and is forced to deal with some heavy-duty feelings of guilt, confusion and deep sadness. In her quest to become "extraordinary", the usually timid Pansy tries to face some of her fears in order to prove her loyalty and achieve goals that her friend Anna had set for herself. Despite what everyone tells her, Pansy believes Anna will be "cured" after her surgery in December. The author creates a feeling of desperation as Pansy almost obsessively pursue's her goals of learning how to ice skate, earning badges as a Girl Scout and earning the most points in the class reading contest. Because she is so busy and focused on her goals, she has alienated her close friend Andy (Anna's twin brother) who really needs her. She is also resistant to befriend the popular Emma, who wants to become friends, because Pansy sees this as a betrayal to Anna.
The book builds as Anna's surgery gets closer and closer. In fact, the chapter titles are the number of days and weeks remaining until her surgery. I won't spoil the ending here, but I think some students will be surprised how it all works out in the end.
I will definitely be including Extraordinary in my 4th grade classroom library. I would recommend it for grades 4-7. Readers who enjoyed heart print books such as One for the Murphys, Out of My Mind and Wonder will enjoy Extraordinary.
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