By: Elizabeth Atkinson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publicatoin Date: August 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: November 22, 2010
Seriously, what’s a girl to do with herself when she’s red headed, mega-vertical, almost twelve-years-old, totally lacking in social skills, and has a wacky New Age mother? Not much except sit listening to Ms. Fiddle, a guidance counselor, who worked on her “socialization skills,” skills she wasn’t interested in acquiring any time soon. She did have one friend, Penelope, who was a couple of years younger and in the fourth grade, but no problem because they were BBFs and that was one fact she knew. She also knew that her mother, Donatella, in one of her not-so-lucid moments, decided to name her Emma when she was born. Emma Freake. She always explained it away by saying, “My mother forgot to say it out loud when I was born.”
Can you just imagine taking an oath with that name? “I, Am A Freak, do solemnly swear...” Penelope had two Gray Moms who always doted on her, but Donatella more or less let Emma do what she felt like doing. Penelope’s moms practically had her whole life planned out for her. Emma wistfully thought, when asked what she had wished for on her birthday, “I wished for a normal mother who acted like one. I wished for a real house. I wished for friends. I wished to be shorter, prettier, funnier...all impossible wishes.” Emma shared her house with Donatella, her grandfather, Nonno, and his gassy bulldog, Eggplant Parmigiana. They lived in cramped quarters over “Freke Beads & More.” At least she liked working in the store, because “No matter what they looked like, beads knew how to socialize perfectly.”
Donatella had promised a wonderful gift, the best gift she’d ever received, when she handed her “How to Learn at Home the Cosmic Way.” She was going to be able to be homeschooled, but something was drastically wrong with the picture. Before you know it, Mr. Millfoil, head of the guidance department, and Miss McFight, “Homeport school committee,” showed up on their doorstep talking to Donatella. “Emma has been referred to our new partner program for what we like to call, ‘special students.’” Excuse me, but wasn’t that the “nuthouse for kids?” Penelope had given her a “mojo gold bead” for good luck, but this was crazy. Next thing you know, she received a weird invitation to attend “The Descendants of Boris Horace Freke” family reunion. Who were these Freke’s and why did they want her now? Where was that joylah that all kids were supposed to have? Was she really a Freke or was she adopted like Penelope?
This is a charming story of Emma Freke a young girl who has no doubt that she really is a freak. Emma experiences mega-angst as she matures, an emotion that few ‘tweens and teens escape, but she is totally oblivious to the fact that she is literally becoming a beautiful young woman. Her bubbly elan and quaint personality are hidden, but simply gush through these pages like a mountain stream in spring. I loved not only her vulnerable side when she “burst out crying,” her self-doubt when she claims she’s the “tallest, palest, saddest girl in all of Homeport,” but also her intelligence and very appealing personality. It was disheartening for Emma to hear that, “whether you like it or not, the truth is honey...you really are a Freke.”
Quill says: By the time your ‘tween or teen reads this book, they’ll probably wish they were a Freke!