The second book about Nikki and Deja, two African American third-grade girls who are best friends.
Deja’s birthday is coming up, and she’s been talking about it for weeks. But just before the big day, Auntie Dee gets called away on a business trip and Deja must stay with an elderly neighbor . . . who cooks turnips for dinner and doesn’t even have a color TV! Worse, the machinations of spoiled Antonia, Deja’s new nemesis, threaten to ruin Deja’s birthday party plans. Like the first book, this story captures with subtlety and humor all the small betrayals and triumphs of young girls’ relationships. Readers will get a wider view of the girls’ diverse urban neighborhood, and will recognize themselves and their classmates in the colorful, deftly drawn school scenes. A more serious theme is also introduced (with a light touch) in a subplot concerning Deja’s absent father.
In her first chapter book, English (Francie) perceptively explores the undercurrent of insecurity and rivalry that threaten two African-American girls' friendship. When Antonia moves into the neighborhood and tries to boss two best friends around, Deja elects to start a drill club and pointedly not invite the new girl. But when Nikki messes up at drill club tryouts, she anticipates rejection and hooks up with Antonia, who proposes an exclusionary club of their own. The plot is secondary to the authentically rendered backdrops of sidewalk games, the third-grade classroom and Saturday morning TV-watching. Better still are the author's careful tabs on the daily fluctuations in the girls' emotional lives: "She hadn't meant to say that.... And since she can't put the words back into her mouth, she's glad she's in front of her house because then she gets to stomp up her stairs and slam the door behind her." More probing than many chapter books, this title delivers the satisfaction of a full-length novel. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 6-10.