Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Source: Raincoast Books
“…sometimes you had an awful, horrible, rotten day and you were sure that nothing was ever going to be right again. But then you had a good sleep and the next morning your Twinkies tasted creamier than ever and everything was okay or at least not as bad as you thought.”
Gertie lives with her Great-Aunt Rae and her father who is mostly away working on an oil rig. Gertie has never met her mother though her mother lives in the same town within walking distance of Gertie’s house. Gertie is mostly okay with this, or she thinks she is, until the day she sees a “For Sale” sign outside this mother’s house and hears from her best friend (who heard from his mother’s friend) that her mother is marrying someone named Walter and leaving town. All of a sudden, it becomes imperative to Gertie that her mother realize how great Gertie is and how sorry she should be for giving her up. So Gertie goes on a mission to gain her mother’s attention and achieve greatness.
These things never end in a good way, do they?
Gertie’s efforts to achieve greatness are complicated by a transfer who student who seems to achieve greatness without working very hard for it. Her teacher seems to have a fondness for this new student and lets behaviour in her slide that she would correct in anyone else. Gertie’s friends, well one of them, does try his best, bless his soul, but he is a timorous sort and not very good at helping. Her other best friend has her own issues.
There are moments when Gertie is severely alone, with no one to understand how she feels except for the little kid her aunt babysits.
Gertie is a great character; she is someone you want to champion, someone who will tug at all your heartstrings. Beasley succeeds in portraying her as spunky and yet vulnerable. She is entirely too human in her desire for her mother’s love and the lengths to which she goes to achieve that is entirely too easy to empathize with.
Jillian Tamaki’s illustrations contribute greatly to the reading experience. Gertie’s story becomes personal and her success seems imperative. The ending is bittersweet and sadly, entirely too realistic. I am not sure how much children will like this but I do know that adults will find their hearts twinging.
Perhaps Gertie’s Leap to Greatness is a book a single dads read to their children? Or parents read with their children? I certainly recommend the novel to all the adults who can handle the emotional charge.