Title: Sing Something True
Author: Brenda A Ferber
Publisher: Fitzroy Books
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Cassidy Carlson fully deserves to be called Sunshine, the nickname her mom has for her. All of 10, she’s a good sister to big sister Sophie, who has sensory processing disorder, and has a hard time managing the simplest of tasks. Cass tries her best, but sometimes it does get overwhelming for her.
On the oak tree outside her bedroom window, there is a robin, whose flock seems to have flown away for the winter. Cass feels sorry for him, and wonders if his situation mirrors hers.
At school, new girl, Lucy London, seems to be trying to alienate her best friend, Dani, from her. Dani won’t believe her suspicions, but Cass is proved right when she is excluded from the entire group at recess.
How can she get back her best friend while still doing her best for her sister? Is it even possible?
The book is written in the first person past tense PoV of Cass.
We don’t really get a sense of the setting and there is almost no physical description, and yet Cass touches our hearts. We can’t help but feel for her, her desire for friendship, to include Lucy in the circle, even though Lucy has only tried to exclude her.
The child tries hard to live up to her nickname, bearing the burden it imposes on her, as the “normal” child, striving to parent herself, so her parents have one child less to worry about, and all this as things get increasingly difficult for her. She even becomes willing to give up her singing lessons, something she truly enjoys, in order to make time for hip-hop lessons with Lucy’s mom.
Her interactions with Shel Silverstein, the robin, are cute and endearing.
The book treats the issue of physical and developmental challenges in a respectful manner. The author’s portrayal of Sophie is such that we never find ourselves pitying her, or struggling to relate to her. We too feel compelled to accept her, as she is. For parents, it is a The sisters too enjoy a touching bond and the family is refreshingly functional. For parents coping with such challenges, the family life of the Carlsons is a remind of how the little things might seem overwhelming to children.
Through Cass’ interactions with Shel Silverstein, we learn that we all, no matter our age (or species), need a flock, somebody who gets us and supports us.
Mrs Kwon, with her creative teaching methods and positive attitude in class and her attention to her students, shows us the significance of a good teacher.
I also liked the idea of Dad working from home and cooking meals for the girls, sharing cooking lessons and turning the domestic order around. There is a bit of humour in the fact that he wears a formal shirt and tie over his pyjama pants.
There are a lot of threads that, at first sight, seem to have the flimsiest of links: the robin, Sophie and her condition, the disintegrating friendship, but they all come together, bringing many teachable moments for Cass and us readers.
For children, on the cusp of adolescence, this book is chock-full of lessons, chiefly on the theme of being true to oneself, and not having to re-make oneself to suit others’ needs.
(I read this book on Edelweiss. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Edelweiss.)