“SOMEBODY’S GIRL,” by Maggie De Vries, Orca Young Readers, May 1, 2011, $7.95 (ages 8-11)
Martha has always known she was adopted — she visits with her birth mother every once in a while — and she’s fine with that. She’s well loved and has lots of friends and is generally a happy person.
That is until her mother gets pregnant.
It’s an event that turns Martha’s world on its end. Suddenly, she is no longer the center of her parents’ attention. Martha is expected to pick out her own clothes, fix her own food and empty the dishwasher — all things her mother did before. But Martha’s mom can’t handle those chores anymore. Complications with her pregnancy have slowed her down.
With all the focus on her mom and the coming baby, Martha feels alone, and she lashes out, losing her friends in the process.
Martha is also being forced to work on a school project about sturgeon with Chance, an annoying boy whose foster parents are family friends. And the attention Chance is getting from his foster parents only serves to make Martha more frustrated.
To make matters worse, Martha’s birth mother is getting married and moving away, seemingly not caring what happens to the daughter she gave away.
Whether Martha likes it or not, a little sister or brother is on their way. And when her mom goes into labor early, Martha realizes things have got to change.
Martha’s story is one that most children from a single-child household can relate to. Going from one child to two can be nerve-wracking for anyone, adopted or not. “Somebody’s Girl” addresses that childhood fear of being replaced, of going from No. 1 to no one.
Author Maggie De Vries expertly handles this difficult situation. While Martha becomes pricklier and pricklier, she’s still likable. De Vries looks at the world through a child’s eyes and in doing so, she captures the essence of childhood. Young readers will feel like they are active participants rather than being talked down to.
At 164 pages, “Somebody’s Girl” is just the right length. Any longer would be too long and any shorter would have cut short the story’s resolution. Kudos to De Vries for a fine narrative that will hit home with many young readers.