Writing a book that lets middle grade readers see what the South was like in the 1960s is always a tricky balance. How much do you include? What do you need to explain and what can just be shown through the story itself? Tamara Bundy strikes that balance in her story of Alice and Miss Millie. When Alice eavesdrops on a conversation of her grandmother's neighbor, her mom makes her go apologize and offer to do something to make up for the rudeness. That is the start of walking with Miss Millie as she takes her dog Clarence on as stroll around the neighborhood. At first Alice resents the chore, just as she resents moving from Columbus to stay with her grandmother and resents her father's absence. But as the story continues, we see the change in Alice's attitude and her feelings about many of the things in her life that make her sad or angry.
Listening to Miss Millie tell about her life as a black woman in the South before the days of Civil Rights gives the historical situation a personal touch. And all the tragedies in her life have made her sensitive to the heartache she can see in Alice. As unlikely a pair as they are, the preteen and the 92-year-old find they have plenty in common besides their daily walks with Clarence. And the story also deals with family issues like a grandparent suffering from memory problems and a mother raising her children while the father is off "finding himself." Just as in real life, there is a lot going on with Alice. Some advice Miss Millie gave her is good for everyone to follow. "...it's okay to get mad. It's okay to get sad, but after all that gettin' mad and sad, ya gotta get smart. Ya gotta take a step back, away from all your hurtin', and figure out what ya can change and what ya can't." Those are words to guide anyone in life.
Highly recommended for middle grade readers who enjoy realistic fiction, historical fiction (of the not too distant past), and stories about family and friends (of all ages).
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.