Vernon is a big, clumsy kid who got held back a year, as if he didn't tower over everyone else already. He's growing up poor in Baltimore, the middle child of 5. After school, all his friends can come up with for entertainment is to make fun of Maxine and her son Ronald. Maxine's an alcoholic and Ronald is special needs. But after failing most of his classes and faced with being held back again, Vernon starts getting tutoring from Maxine's next door neighbor, Miss Annie. Miss Annie knows Vernon can't afford to pay her, so she makes him work it off by helping Maxine and Ronald. What happens next transforms Vernon, Ronald, and the entire neighborhood.
Here's what makes this book something special (it won a Newbery Honor in 1993)-- the plot description above could very easily describe a really saccharine, cheesy book. And this isn't that. While some things change, some things don't, and this book doesn't offer a fairy tale version of life. Not everything that Vernon discovers in what is, more or less, a coming of age tale, is because of his friendship with Maxine and Ronald, but it's all tied together during the same time period. And being able to see a different side to these people who thought he knew helps him to see a different side to his family, friends, and other neighbors. Also, a great addition to the list of "books about poor people that aren't historical fiction or about race."
Book Provided by... um... not sure. It was on my bookshelf, so I'm assuming my wallet?
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