Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Verbena "Verbie" has always been different.  She is tiny, and she looks different than the other kids she comes across in school and elsewhere.  It isn't until she learns that she's adopted, that things begin to make sense.

Verbie's adoptive parents love her dearly, but when she is told about her biological parents, Verbie begins to act out.  It's not easy to learn that her mother drank heavily during her pregnancy causing Verbie to suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome.  She was underweight and remained smaller than most of her classmates and her upper lip is strangely smooth.  Verbie also discovers that her father broke a man's neck in a fit of rage and is now in jail.  It's no wonder that Verbie is angry and lashing out at everyone around her.

When a New York City woman and her young son rent the empty house next door to Verbie, she thinks maybe this summer will be different.  Unfortunately, the first interaction with the new neighbors involves the city woman throwing rocks at and threatening Verbie's three-legged dog.  Verbie ducks for cover and decides to steer clear of these vicious people.

Rumor has it that the long empty house is haunted by a previous resident, a little girl who drowned in the nearby lake.  Verbie's first contact with the city boy comes when he stumbles across her checking out an old rowboat stuck in the mucky shoreline.  Verbie is dressed in her white nightgown, dirty and torn from her hike through the woods to the lake.  The young boy mistakes her for the ghost of the little girl, and Verbie doesn't deny his assumption.  The boy introduces himself as Pooch, and together they decide to try to fix up the old boat.  What follows is a heartwarming story about friendship and self-discovery.

Author Sarah Weeks has followed up her extraordinary novel SO B. IT with one equally as good.  AS SIMPLE AS IT SEEMS is perfect for middle grade readers.  Weeks portrays Verbie struggling with the new knowledge of her past and the rollercoaster emotions of feeling different in a way that will have readers eagerly turning pages.

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