Written by Joyce Magnin
Illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov
Wilma Sue is wary of the world and she is only twelve. She has been in and out of foster homes since she was a baby. She can’t figure out why no one wants her. She longs to fly like a bird somewhere, anywhere to get away from this feeling. But for now she has to go where the home sends her and this time they send her to two sisters who have spent many years in Africa as missionaries. This is no ordinary place where Wilma Sue finds herself. Ruth is always working at one of her causes. Naomi is always baking cakes for people in the neighborhood who needs a special gift. And Penny, the little girl next door, says awful things to Wilma Sue for no good reason. Wilma Sue tries so hard to get along and do the right thing, but things go wrong so easily. For instance, there is the time that Wilma Sue’s garter snake gets away from her in church and makes a mess of the service. She loves taking care of the chickens and helping with the baking, but she just can’t make sense of why Penny seems to hate her. Then, the chicken coop catches fire. Penny goes so far as to say Wilma Sue did it. Wilma Sue may have to go back to the home after all, just when she was starting to love being with Naomi and Ruth.
The voice of this first-person narrative is charming, a rather modern day Anne of Green Gables. She has a big vocabulary and an almost encyclopedic way of expressing herself which is explained by the fact that she had no friends her age and spent her time reading. The sisters are eccentric but loving, the adult characters they visit have funny names and Penny is really unpleasant, which makes most wonder why Wilma Sue would even try to be friends with her.
One suggested literacy activity would be to make a list or a chart of the cake-recipients and explain the hidden meanings of their names, paired with the hidden meaning of the hymn that Naomi sings when she bakes that person’s cake. Penny’s name alone will get a lot of interesting discussion: Pigworthy. This would make a good book for a class read aloud or book discussion group in a private school, church group or a home school. There are discussion questions at the end of the book along with a glossary and a recipe.