Vive la Paris -- Esme Raji Codell

Vive la Paris is a* companion novel to Sahara Special, which you probably already know and love**.  Like Sahara, Paris is in Miss Pointy's fifth-grade class.  I've been bossing all of my co-workers into reading page one:

Excuse me for saying so, but I could not understand why this old white lady was talking to me like I was born into her hands.  She don't even know me.  I just come for piano lessons, and within two minutes she had offered me:

1.  grapes, which were plastic,
2.  a seat, on her sofa, which was also plastic and which made an impolite noise when I sat on it, which to me was specially uncomfortable because I am a polite person or try to be, and
3.  her advice, which was, I believe the word is, unsolicited.

Vive la ParisI'm not sure how anyone could even imagine resisting a book that starts like that. 

Our narrator is, of course, Paris.  She lives in a smallish apartment in Chicago with her parents and her four (four!) older brothers.  She's been having problems with a classmate at school lately.  Tanaeja hasn't been beating up on Paris -- it's even worse than that. She's been beating up on Paris' older brother.  As he believes very strongly in non-violence, he won't fight back -- and Paris knows that it'll ultimately be worse for him if she, his baby sister, steps up to defend him. 

Paris' voice is genuine -- by the end of the book, I'd forgotten it was fiction.  I'm not exaggerating.  Part of that realism, I think, is due to Esme Raji Codell's treatment of adult characters.  Paris doesn't always understand what they're talking about -- there are some one-liners in there that will go right over young readers' heads, too.  (Adults, though, will howl.)  But the lines are still in there, because... that's real life.  I'm not explaining myself well at all here, but trust me.  It works.

There's a lot more going on in this book than any of that, though.  Paris learns about Big Things.  Life Things.  I don't think I'd call it a coming-of-age story so much as a loss-of-innocence story.  It made me cry a whole lot.  But it made me laugh a whole lot, too.  So there you go.

Highly, highly recommended.

Oh, also:  Note the awesome cover art by Giselle Potter.  It actually reflects the contents of the book!  Imagine that!

*The book says it is "the" companion novel, but I'm hoping for more.  So I'll stick with "a" companion novel, thankyouverymuch.

**If not, how do you not know it?  Get on that.  And if you don't love it, wowza.  What's the deal with that?

***Spoiler coming up***:

Also... As stories about the Holocaust go, this one KICKS THE PANTS off of that Striped Pajamas book.  (Which, no, I still haven't finished.  But that doesn't make my statement any less true.)