A School Library Journal Best Book
Agnes has been raised to keep her opinions to herself, but how do you keep silent when you’re full of burning questions?
Agnes has been encouraged not to question authority by her mom—but that’s especially hard in religion class, where it bugs her that so much gets blamed on Eve and that God’s always pictured one way. Fortunately, Agnes’ anthropologist neighbor, Gracy, gets Agnes thinking after they rescue an opossum together. Playing dead didn’t serve the opossum well, so maybe it’s time for Agnes to start thinking for herself. And when Agnes learns that some cultures picture God as a female, she feels freed to think—and write—about things from new perspectives. As she and her best friend, Mo, encourage each other to get out of their comfort zone at school as the quiet kids, they quickly find it’s sorta cool seeing people react when they learn you are very much full of thought-provoking opinions. Ann Braden has written a fast-paced, funny novel that will resonate with anyone who’s ever been afraid to say what they think or question the status quo.
Ann Braden (annbradenbooks.com) is also the author of Flight of the Puffin. She writes books about kids trying to stand up for themselves even when things are tough. Her debut middle grade novel, The Benefits of Being an Octopus, was an NPR Best Book and has appeared on numerous state lists. Ann founded the Local Love Brigade, which sends love postcards to those who are facing hate. She also founded GunSenseVT, a grassroots group that helped pass landmark gun violence prevention legislation. Ann has been a middle school teacher, the co-host of the children’s book podcast Lifelines: Books That Bridge the Divide, and co-organizer of #KidsNeedMentors. Ann lives in southern Vermont with her husband, two children, and two insatiable cats.
“Braden's book is perfect for middle-graders of any faith, especially those learning to make their faith their own. The relatable core plot, which folds in themes of income inequality, sexism, and asserting one's rights, moves quickly, and . . . the strong women in Agnes' life steal the show. Agnes’ growth throughout the novel and the familiar middle-grade plot points reimagined through Agnes’ unique situation in her community will resonate with fans of Barbara Dee and Paul Acampora.” —Booklist
“A 12-year-old girl learns that questioning faith can make it stronger. . . . Through eye-opening talks with her anthropologist neighbor, creative writing exercises from the perspective of an opossum, and the powerful poetry of Maya Angelou, Agnes finds a version of God that makes sense to her and realizes she has the power to challenge authority. Braden crafts a nuanced story supported by clear metaphors and honest, deep emotions. Readers faced with similar situations will find support here even if it’s only the confirmation to keep questioning. As Agnes learns and grows, she comes to realize that there are many conceptions of religion and God. . . . Mind-expanding.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Braden has woven the story of an overlooked and misinterpreted animal with thought-provoking realistic fiction. Braden shares a multigenerational story of how poetry and speaking your truth can be refreshing and connecting. This novel could be useful in social emotional learning lessons about being patient when change happens slowly or allowing oneself permission to feel anger. Readers might relate this quirky tale to Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato about strange misunderstood animals and unexpected relationship dynamics. The world needs tweens to reflect on who is telling every story, whether fiction or nonfiction, and the motivations for those perspectives. A healthy reminder that the status quo continually needs to be challenged by thoughtful youths. There are a multitude of metaphors found in the natural world that can provide lessons if we are open to receiving them. A good choice for tween shelves.” —School Library Journal