Sixth grade is about to begin, and Bess Cunningham is gearing up to be cool. With a bunch of wild new outfits and an important job in the school play, Bess is convinced she'll get a lot of attention--at least more than she gets from her overbooked parents. With a lawyer dad and a teacher mom, both of whom are passionate about volunteering for a soup kitchen, Bess sometimes feels like she would have to eat out of a Dumpster before they'd notice her. But when she meets an elderly woman named Gracie who actually does eat other people's discarded food, she begins to realize there are real human faces on the scruffy people her parents serve at the soup kitchen. Soon she and her best friend, Ethan, are deeply entrenched in Gracie's life, and in helping establish a shelter for homeless women. Bess is amazed to discover that even without her crazy wardrobe, she has managed to make new friends and make a difference.
For preteens on the never-ending search for identity, middle school can be a brutal place. Wanting to be noticed, wanting to be invisible, wanting to be grown up, wanting to be a kid...life isn't easy. Watching Bess's revelations unfurl will be tremendously helpful for kids on the cusp of adolescence. Not surprisingly, as she and her friends help others, they begin to feel better about themselves, and, guess what--their popularity grows as well. As shown in Hard Love, Ellen Wittlinger's ability to tackle tough issues from tricky perspectives is memorable and entertaining. (Ages 9 to 13) --Emilie Coulter