This touching story will have you sidling up to your Kleenex box. It’s a short and ultimately sweet story about coping with loss, narrated by ten-year-old Tamara Ann Simpson, or Tammy.
It’s the summer after fifth grade for Tammy, in 1969, the same summer that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Tammy’s best friend, Kebsie Grobser, moved away a month and a half ago, and now a new foster kid has taken her place across the street, a scrawny boy her age that Tammy contemptuously calls Muscle Man McGinty. He is constantly bragging and exaggerating, even claiming that astronaut Neil Armstrong is his uncle!
The kids on the block all play kickball together, and through this medium, get to know each other’s mettle. Tammy is dead-set against the new boy fitting in; to her, he is usurping Kebsie’s place, and she blames him for Kebsie being gone. When she pushes McGinty into challenging the whole kickball team to a game, she doesn’t understand why the rest of the kids are so nice to him.
The story ends on July 20, 1969, the night Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. A lot of other big steps are taken that summer too by Tammy, as she learns all about friendship and forgiveness and the fact that what people say isn’t always what they mean.
The kids’ behavior seems age-appropriate. Their struggles with social rules and emotions and understanding how the word works strike me as just right. There are some aspects of the story, like about the Vietnam War, that a child of today might not get without a little help from adults. But the issues of bullying, rejection, loss and acceptance might provide great opportunities for parental guidance. Recommended as a good joint reading project for children and parents.
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2009