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Tillie: Heart and Soul
Ten-year-old Tillie practices roller skating whenever she can--even in the old Franklin Piano Factory where she lives with her guardian Uncle Fred. She's determined to be in the annual skateathon with her friends Shanelle and Glory.. Surely Mama wouldn't miss it! But skating in the city is tough, three-way friendships are tricky, and the stupid rules in Mama's rehab program could mess up all her plans.
Reviews
Atkinson introduces a relatable heroine in 10-year-old Tillie, who never knew her father and whose volatile mother is away at a treatment center to get sober. Tillie lives in Massachusetts with her loving gay uncle in a piano factory converted to lofts and artist studios. An avid roller skater, Tillie is eager to take part in the annual skate-a-thon; she also hopes that her mother might be able to attend. After Tillie and her friend Shanelle meet new student Gloria, Tillie becomes increasingly self-conscious about not having a parent around. Atkinson excels at exploring the girls’ shifting friendship dynamics and the difficulty of managing expectations when it comes to an unreliable loved one. The conclusion may not surprise many readers, but Tillie’s honest voice resonates, and secondary characters, notably Uncle Fred and the surrounding community of artists, are equally genuine. Ages 8–12. (BookLife)
Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Starred Review 

In this novel for older elementary school children, a fifth-grader’s determination to shine at roller skating becomes entangled in her concerns about her height, family, and best friend’s shifting loyalties.

Ten-year-old Tillie Watkins worries about her absent mother, short stature, and peculiar home with her eccentric uncle in a piano factory–turned–artists’ colony (it accommodates “ten artists plus one kid”). Her insecurities over being different are magnified when her best friend, Shanelle, deserts her for Glory Peterson, a cool new girl in school. If Tillie can only prove herself in an upcoming roller skating skate-a-thon, maybe Mama will come back and everything else will fall into place. (Tillie’s “guilty wish” is “that I could have a regular car and a regular house with a mom and a dad and a dog sleeping on the porch.”) Author and poet Atkinson (Owl Girl, 2016, etc.) gives the book’s setting and characters notable authenticity. Readers gradually understand that Tillie’s mother has been in and out of treatment due to substance abuse and largely absent from her daughter’s life. Yet Tillie hangs on to an idealized portrait of Mama, imagining loving conversations with her and wanting to make her proud so that she will come back to stay. Tillie’s realization that others—including a brilliant little second-grader whom she tutors and even Glory—may live with difficult challenges, too, emerges gradually and without preachiness. Tillie’s pride in her odd home and the people in it also develops slowly and effectively. When her affectionate and protective Uncle Fred helps her understand that she has nothing to do with Mama’s unreliability, it is a moving moment of truth. Atkinson’s message of reassurance and confidence-building—children aren’t responsible for their parents’ flaws; they are worthy of being loved for who they are—is an organic part of a warm and lively narrative told through a young girl’s thoughts, actions, and growing comprehension of her world and those around her.

An outstanding tale that approaches issues of self-doubt, rejection, and acceptance with sensitivity, warmth, and an engagingly realistic voice.

 

 

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