Imagine your parents are older than most kids’ parents. No, I mean really old. Your parents are so old that even the teachers at your new middle school mistake them for your grandparents. Before your mother found out she was pregnant at fifty-three, the doctors thought she had a cancerous tumor. Instead, it was you, the miracle.
“I was the good that came out of the cancer scare,” explains Trudy White, narrator of _Trudy_, Jessica Lee Anderson’s first novel and Milkweed Editions’ 2005 winner of the Children’s Prize for Literature. Although embarrassed by them at times, Trudy is used to the age difference between her and her parents, and is comfortable with “Ma” and “Pop” in their old house, Ma crocheting and Pop gardening. But Trudy is having a rough time adjusting to the changes of middle school, including failing math and being dumped by her best friend. “People change, especially around the transition,” Trudy’s mother explains to her. Then Trudy and her mother start to notice changes in Pop. He forgets to pick up Trudy after school. He suddenly starts calling Trudy “Laura Bell.” At first they think it’s just absent-mindedness, but soon it’s apparent something more serious is wrong, and at the doctor’s they find out Pop has Alzheimer’s.
Trudy has a full plate of challenges in this coming-of-age novel, and Anderson gives her an authentic, appealing voice. “Before that,” Trudy says about her father’s diagnosis, “I thought the disease was really called Old Timers.” Trudy’s reactions feel realistic, as when she guiltily admits that sometimes it is easier to just ignore her father than to try to explain something to him that he used to know. Anderson’s style of writing is appealing as well, as she writes in spare prose of chapters no more than two pages long, each a surprisingly rich vignette.
Milkweed has a particular talent for finding children’s writers who take seriously the jagged emotional terrain of childhood, and Anderson is no exception. She has a gift for capturing profound emotion in very accessible language, reminiscent of Patricia Maclachlan of _Sarah, Plain and Tall_ fame. _Trudy_ is a beautiful novel of loss and love that will appeal to a broad audience.
_Carrie Mercer is a freelance writer and artist living in Minneapolis. She has an MFA from Hamline University and is currently learning to ice skate. Read her blog at “www.findingjimmy.blogspot.com”:http://www.findingjimmy.blogspot.com or reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org._