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So B. It

by Sarah Weeks

School Library Journal Gr 6-9-Heidi and her mother have lived in an apartment that adjoins with their neighbor, Bernadette, since the 12-year-old was probably no more than a week old. Bernadette accepted and loved them from the moment they arrived at her door but could never ask questions since Heidi's mentally challenged mother simply "didn't have the words to answer them." Bernadette's agoraphobia further isolates the child. Heidi struggles with knowing nothing about her father or her family history, and never having a real last name. Then she finds an old camera, which prompts her quest to learn the identity of the people in the photographs it holds and to discover her past. While traveling by bus from Nevada to Liberty, NY, the girl relies on her luck, instinct, and the people she meets on the way to learn the truth about her mother and her own background. Readers will pull for and empathize with the likable characters, especially Heidi as she struggles for self-knowledge. The almost melodramatic story has fantasy elements such as Heidi's lucky streak; hitting a slot machine enables her to buy the bus ticket to New York. Heidi's naive voice, however, creates a willing suspension of disbelief as she learns what she set out to and matures along the way.-Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Heidi It has gotten to be 12 years old without knowing any but the sketchiest information about her background: her mentally disabled mother, who insists her name is So Be It, showed up with the week-old Heidi on their neighbor Bernadette's doorstep seemingly out of the clear blue sky, and Bernadette, who is severely agoraphobic but also bookish and generous, has been looking out for Heidi and Mama ever since. Somehow Heidi and Mama never get billed for rent or utilities, and besides, Heidi has an almost magical ability to play slot machines, which, in their native Reno, can be found even in the local Sudsy Duds laundromat. But as the novel opens, Heidi has begun to chafe-she is no longer willing to live with Bernadette's complacency about the mysterious past ("What happened before [I met you] doesn't matter," Bernadette tells Heidi. "It's just something to be grateful for") and Heidi is determined to find out what Mama means by the strange word "soof." When Heidi uncovers an old camera with a roll of undeveloped film, a host of clues to her identity send her on a solo cross-country bus trip to confront people who not only do not expect her but have taken pains to insulate themselves from her existence. Suspension of belief is beside the point: readers will probably respond to Heidi's voice and determination, get caught up in the mystery and feel wiser for the mild tear-jerker ending. Ages 10-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Twelve-year-old Heidi It and her severely mentally disabled mother survive through a combination of good luck and their next-door neighbor's loving attention. An undeveloped roll of old film leads Heidi to embark alone on a risky cross-country quest to answer questions about Mama's past. Narrator Heidi's realistic voice lends authenticity to her unusual circumstances. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Gr. 4-7. Thirteen-year-old Heidi lives a sheltered but rich life in Reno with her developmentally disabled mother, So B. It, and their agoraphobic neighbor, Bernadette, who takes care of them. The pair arrived on Bernie's doorstep 13 years ago, and because So B. It's vocabulary consists of only 23 words, Bernie has never been able to figure out where she and her mother came from or if they have any other family. Bernie homeschools Heidi, who is intelligent, determined, and energetic. One day while cleaning a closet, Heidi discovers an old camera with film inside. When the photos are developed, they find a young, pregnant So B. It at Hilltop Home for the Disabled, in Liberty, New York. Determined to solve the mystery of her mother, Heidi sets out alone on a cross-country bus trip. There are obvious resemblances to Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons 0 (1994), but Weeks has a distinctive voice that's all her own. Her fully dimensional characters are remarkable yet believable, and although readers may guess the truth about Heidi's family before she does, the foreshadowing builds to a beautifully satisfying ending. An especially nice device is the chapter titles: each is one of So B. It's 23 words. This is lovely writing--real, touching, and pared cleanly down to the essentials. --Debbie Carton Copyright 2004 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.