Friendship isn't always easy. Natalie is different from the other girls in Dreenie's fifth-grade class. She comes to school in a wheelchair, always wearing a knitted hat. The kids call her "Bluish" because her skin is tinted blue from chemotherapy. Dreenie is fascinated by Bluish -- and a little scared of her, too. She watches Bluish and writes her observations in her journal. Slowly, the two girls become good friends. But Dreenie still struggles with with Bluish's illness. Bluish is weak and frail, but she also wants to be independent and respected. How do you act around a girl like that?
Integrating third-person narrative with entries from fifth-grader Dreenie's journal, Hamilton (Second Cousins) poignantly traces the evolution of an unusual friendship. When she starts a new school, Dreenie feels drawn to a frail classmate named Nathalie, whom everyone calls "Bluish" ("This girl is like moonlight. So pale you see the blue veins all over"). Sitting in her wheelchair, always wearing a cap ("like half a bowl") and carrying a puppy ("Nobody brings a dog to school!"), Bluish at first seems unapproachable, but Dreenie is determined to edge carefully closer. She succeeds at winning the girl's trust while helping to break down the barrier that separates Bluish from the other students. Spare prose expresses each stage of the girls' relationship, which sometimes appears as fragile as Bluish herself. Hamilton effectively weaves in details about Dreenie's Amsterdam Avenue neighborhood in New York, her school and her attention-hungry sidekick, Tulie, adding dimension and solidity to the story. The girl's nickname also introduces an understated exploration of what it means to be different. Readers will come to cherish Dreenie's openheartedness, just as Dreenie comes to cherish her new-found friend. Ages 9-14. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.