Ann M. Martin
Eleanor Roosevelt Dingman lives with her family on Witch Tree Lane, which is her town's version of the wrong side of the tracks. In 1962, it's not normal to have a mother whose focus in life is to be a star, but Ellie loves her beautiful mother even as she's embarrassed by her too-tight clothing and her endless quest to thrust herself into the spotlight. As Ellie struggles to survive the bullying and harrassment inflicted on the denizens of Witch Tree Lane, she must also try to hold her family together as her father passively accepts his wife's defection and her younger siblings cope in their own ways.
Ellie is an admirable heroine, plucky and intelligent, but not overly precocious or cloyingly precious. Ann M. Martin's skill as a writer of hundreds of books serves her well. Through Ellie's eyes, readers will experience the horror of anti-Semitism and gay-bashing (although the latter is not explicitly identified--younger readers may not actually understand why the spinster couple's mailbox is constantly being destroyed). Readers facing the pain of divorce will identify with Ellie's desperate search to find her mother in the city and force her to make the Dingman family whole again.
Martin brings the turbulent 1960s to life with vivid accuracy, especially the nationwide grief after President Kennedy's assassination. The games that Ellie makes up for her siblings and their friends to play are amusing, and readers will appreciate Ellie's desire to fit in with the popular kids. Mr. Dingman is a quiet presence in the book, and Ellie's frustration at his response to his flamboyant wife is understandable, though eventually tempered by the realization that we cannot compel those we love to be what we want them to be, no matter how hard we try. Ultimately, Martin has penned a poignant coming-of-age tale that is destined to become a classic.