Synopses & Reviews
Ten-year-old Zoe Elias has perfect piano dreams. She can practically feel the keys under her flying fingers; she can hear the audience's applause. All she needs is a baby grand so she can start her lessons, and then she'll be well on her way to Carnegie Hall.
But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe's dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn't the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn't the only part of Zoe's life in Michigan that's off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day.
Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises--and that perfection may be even better when it's just a little off center.
"Kats snarky comments about her family and fellow tourists . . . are funny . . . This story-within-a-story of young Mulacs capture and escape from slavery takes up a good part of the novel. Its an effective device, adding depth to the plot and leading to the readers' understanding of how Kats growth and insights come about."--Booklist
"What a generous spirit behind this book: one that celebrates the crooked quirks of its characters. I love Zoe's parents and her friend Wheeler, but most especially I love Zoe. She's perfect, in the most deliciously crooked kind of way."--Sharon Creech, Newbery Medal-winning author of Walk Two Moons
"An impressive and poignant debut novel . . . filled with hope and humor."--School Library Journal
"Immediately engaging . . . Zoeand#8217;s world is drawn with sometimes painful precision, her emotions are revealed with empathy, and her story unfolds realistically, without the miracles she hopes for, but with small, sometimes surprising changes . . . sometimes funny, sometimes tender, this is a promising debut."--Booklist
"Short, funny chapters full of exaggeration and exasperation provide lots of laughs . . . Readers with their own dreams, weird obsessions, and quirky hobbies will be heartened by the message that a few bumps, compromises, and sour notes along the way can pay off in a major key."--The Bulletin
VOYA Top Shelf for Middle School Readers 2013 list
"The Center of Everything travels a satisfying, circular path that deliberately echoes the shape of a donut. . . . Wishing has a useful place both in childhood and in this novel; but so, too, does reality, especially when rendered with this kind of sensitivity."
—Meg Wolitzer, The New York Times Book Review "Another gem from one of my favorite authors! Ruby Pepperdine and her wish will work their way into the center of your heart, where theyll remain (along with a yearning for donuts) long after you close the book." —Ingrid Law, author of Savvy, a Newbery Honor Book
"A beautiful, sensitive, thoughtful novel that will make you think and smile and think some more, and fall in love with Linda Urban's books."
—Kathryn Erskine, National Book Award-winner "Every book by Linda Urban makes me laugh, cry, hope, wonder, and fall in love with her writing. With The Center of Everything, she has done it again!" —Barbara OConnor, author of How to Steal a Dog * "Throughout this slim, affecting novel, Urban treats Ruby's bewilderment with care, and gracefully reinforces the value of friends, family, and community."
—Booklist, starred review
"Ruby's large imagination and even bigger heart are beautifully evoked as the sixth grader finds a way to keep the memory of her grandmother alive."
* "A poignant, finely wrought exploration of grief."
—Kirkus, starred review
"By turns thought-provoking, humorous, and poignant, Ruby's story introduces a multi-faceted character well worth meeting."
"Give this to patient readers who enjoy Polly Horvath's The Vacation (2005) and Everything on a Waffle (2001)."
—School Library Journal
* "[Urban] compactly, gently addresses some common aspects of grief: the isolation, the regrets, the bargaining, and the epistemological questions about meaning. . . . This is a terrific first step up for kids who are just beginning to explore more complicated novels."
—Bulletin, starred review
Sure that she'll be on her way to Carnegie Hall if only she cold have a baby grand, 10-year-old Zoe Elias's dreams hit a sour note when her dad gives her an organ instead.
Kat can think of dozens of good reasons not to go on a boring family vacation to hot, grungy Mexico. Number one: missing her friend Fiona's minicamp. If she's not there, she'll begin eighth grade as a social reject.
Despite her reluctance, Kat ends up on a teen adventure tour where she meets Nando, a young Mayan guide (who happens to be quite a cutie). As they travel to different Mayan ruins each day, Nando tells Kat his original legend of Muluc, a girl who lived in the time of the Ancient Maya. The dangerous, dramatic world in which Muluc lives is as full of rivalry, betrayal, and sacrifice as Kat's world at school. And as she makes new friends and discovers treasures in Mexico, Kat begins to wonder: Is she willing to keep sacrificing her self in exchange for popularity?
Sarah promised Marjorie when they were five years old that they would be best friends forever. But that was before seventh grade, when everything changedeverything except Marjorie. While Sarah wants to meet new people and try new things, Marjorie still likes doing the same things they always did. It seems the more time the two girls spend together, the more time Sarah wants to spend apart. How did a promise that was so easy to make become so hard to keep?
On a summer vacation to Mexico, popularity-obsessed Kat ends up on a teen adventure tour where she meets Nando, a young Mayan guide (who happens to be quite a cutie). As they travel to different Mayan ruins each day, Nando tells Kat his original legend of Muluc, a girl who lived in the time of the ancient Maya. The dangerous, dramatic world in which Muluc lived is as full of rivalry, betrayal, and sacrifice as Kats world at middle school. And as she makes new friends and discovers treasures in Mexico, Kat begins to question her values and those of her friends back at home.
An irresistible debut novel, full of warmth and sass, now in paperback
Linda Urban's irresistible debut novel, full of warmth and sass, about ten-year-old Zoe Elias, who has perfect piano dreams but a life that's a little off-kilter.
From the author of the acclaimed A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT and HOUND DOG TRUE comes a middle-grade novel about donuts, a birthday wish, and making things right with the ones you love.
Spring 2013 Kids' Indie Next List
For Ruby Pepperdine, the “center of everything” is on the rooftop of Pepperdine Motors in her donut-obsessed town of Bunning, New Hampshire, stargazing from the circle of her grandmother Gigis hug. Thats how everything is supposed to be—until Ruby messes up and things spin out of control. But she has one last hope. It all depends on what happens on Bunning Day, when the entire town will hear Ruby read her winning essay. And it depends on her twelfth birthday wish—unless she messes that up too. Can Rubys wish set everything straight in her topsy-turvy world?
Thirteen-year-old Kat is reluctant to leave her friends behind while she goes on a family vacation to Mexico. However, once there, she discovers new friends and ancient Mayan culture and begins to question the values of her friends at home.
About the Author
Sarah promised Marjorie when they were five years old that they would be best friends forever. But that was before seventh grade, when everything changedeverything except Marjorie. While Sarah wants to meet new people and try new things, Marjorie still likes doing the same things they always did. It seems the more time the two girls spend together, the more time Sarah wants to spend apart. How did a promise that was so easy to make become so hard to keep? "A quiet, strongly realistic novel."--Publishers Weekly
, STARRED review
"This changing-friendship novel is refreshingly presented without villains or victims. . . . A perceptive, poignant novel of middle-school identity and friendship."--The Horn Book
"A particularly accessible [story]. . . . Readers will sympathize intensely with Sarah's dilemma."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The dialogue is right-on, and readers will recognize the vicious social warfare from the lunchroom to the school bus."--Booklist
"A heartwarming story about life's unexpected lessons, through the eyes of a girl experiencing them for the first time."--School Library JournalGina Willner-Pardo is the author of 15 books,My Mom and Other Mysteries of the Universe,whichKirkus Reviewssaid "Resonate[s] with authenticity." Her other books includeDaphne Eloise Slater, Who's Tall for Her AgeandFiguring Out Frances,which won the Bank Street College of Education Josette Frank Award and whichSchool Library Journalcalled "a small treasure." She lives in California.