Monday, June 13, 2016

Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley


Rating: WORTHY!

I don't know her, but in my opinion, Kate Beasley is a mischievous-looking author, so it was hardly surprising to me that that this came from her keyboard! It's a nicely-written middle-grade novel and is of course about Gertie, who is planning on being the best fifth-grader ever this year. She's well-on-track to kick-start it with her zombie frog, until Mary Sue Spivey shows up as a transfer student. Mary Sue is smart and her father is a movie director who happens to direct movies featuring Jessica Walsh, who is a hero of fifth graders everywhere, so Gertie's plans have to hop-it.

Her phase two decision to become a genius student and thereby overshadow Mary Sue also gets a D. It seems like every plan Gertie comes up with is effortlessly derailed by Mary Sue and now, looming on the horizon, is career day, wherein Mary Sue gets to have her movie director father show up maybe, and Gertie can't even bring her own father because he's gone for two weeks working on an oil-rig out in the ocean. Gertie decides she can handle this alone. She's a big girl now. The problem is that career day doesn't go anything like Gertie planned or even imagined it would, and now Mary Sue is more popular than ever and Gertie is looking more and more like the villain in this little drama they have going. Talking of which, the school play is auditioning next....

The story was a bit of a roller-coaster, and Gertie was in many ways her own worst enemy, but this state of affairs wasn't random. For reasons which go unexplained, Gertie's mom abandoned her and her dad, and married another guy, and Gertie has never come to terms with it. She grew up with her dad, who was absent periodically, and her great Aunt Rae, and an annoying little kid named Audrey who was often parked with Rae when her folks wanted a date night or day (both of which seem to be very often). Gertie doesn't suspect that her 'perfect' nemesis also has personal issues with which she wrestles, too.

Names of characters in my stories are important to me and (as they used to in years gone by) tend to carry a meaning behind the fa├žade, which relates something of the character who carries them. In that context, I have to observe here that the popularity of the name Gertrude - which I personally don't like - fell steadily throughout the twentieth century, becoming very effectively non-existent since the mid-sixties, so why this name was chosen for this character, who I think deserved better, is a mystery explicable it seems to me, only as a rather forlorn attempt at alliteration, but I decided not to fret too much over that any more than I wondered why it was Kate Beasley and not Kat Beasley which to me is a kick-ass name! Not that Kate is awful; I have several nieces named in some variation on 'Kate'.

But I digress! I had some technical issues reading this in Adobe Digital Editions reader. The chapters were slow to load, taking about eighteen seconds for the screen to appear when turning the page to a chapter header, whereas pages with images on them (which often do load slowly in ADE) popped up right away! I don't know what that was all about. The only problem with the images was that some of them were truncated so it was impossible to see all of the image. In contrast, on the Kindle app on my phone, I had no problem with slow screen loading or with seeing the images (although the images were understandably small). The best of all, though, was on the Bluefire Reader app on my iPad, where it was picture (and text) perfect.

I had some minor issues with the writing, too. I felt the story ended a little too abruptly. There never did seem to be any resolution. It felt like it was left hanging a bit. Although the very brief epilogue (which I typically don't read since the epilogue ought to be the last chapter, not some appendix), was unexpectedly interesting, and peculiar in that it didn't wrap-up the story at all. In fact, it seemed like it was actually the prologue (which I don't read either) to another story! I felt that Mary Sue was portrayed as much more of a villain than she actually was, which was misleading given later revelations), but perhaps middle-graders won't be so picky.

Those gripes aside, I really liked the story and the general way in which it was unveiled. I liked the tone and the chapter headers and the excellent gray scale illustrations by Jillian Tamaki (now there's another great name to play with!), and taken overall, I recommend it as a worthy read for its intended age range and perhaps, beyond, too! Go read it if you don't believe me!