ABSOLUTELY ALMOST by Lisa Graff, Philomel Books, 2014
Calista tunes in right away. She tells Albie she isn’t a baby sitter. They will just hang out.
Entering a new 5th grade is hard enough. When you are always “almost” and never “most”, as Albie sees himself, life is tough. Add a few bullies, which seem to populate every 5th grade story, and you know fairly soon what Albie is up against. Then Calista arrives. She helps him see life and himself differently.
Calista is like a bridge between Albie and the adults in his life—parents, teachers, neighbors in his New York apartment building-- and between Albie and his friends and classmates who may or may not be the same people.
Complications rush in like a run-away subway train when the family of his best friend Erlan, who Albie suspects may be his only friend, is selected to allow TV cameras into their home. Suddenly Erlan lives in the middle of a successful reality show. The boys try to work around it, but it’s almost--that word again--impossible to have a private best friend talk with a camera leaning in.
If, as a parent, you read this book before you place it somewhere to be discovered, think of it as a guide for crossing the bridge between parent and pre-teen experiences. You will see all sides of these developing relationships. No one will be right all the time. Good news for you, because you will be thinking in the not too distant future that surely no one could be wrong all the time.
A former children’s book editor, Lisa Graff has written other books, too, among them A Tangle of Knots and Sophie Simon Solves Them All. I can't help but wonder if she didn't have a bit of Calista's savvy when she was a teen.