My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Heartwarming and feisty, Vilonia is a breath of fresh air in the middle grade genre!
Thanks to the author for providing @kidlitexchange with a finished copy of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.
You can almost hear and feel the country twang in this sweet and sassy middle grade (mid-to-late elementary) novel about baseball-loving, obituary-writing and pet-dreaming Vilonia Beebee. Her determination to help her family during her mother’s depression and prove that she is responsible enough for a pet make for a wonderful story that will appeal to a wide audience. It’s also an ode to the classic BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo.
This story would be an excellent read aloud in grades 3-5 and should be handed to any child who is like Vilonia and is dying for, aching for, dreaming of the pet their parents won’t let them have. Depression is treated with rose-tinted glasses, which fits the mood of the novel, but may seem unrealistic to children whose parents have descended much deeper into it than Vilonia’s mother did. However, it is a welcome inclusion of an issue that isn’t always shown in this genre. The obituary-writing is just so sweet and such an unusual twist – I loved that! Other topics dealt with are grief and military deployment of a parent. The sour cream pound cake recipe at the end of the book is a wonderful bonus!
Highly recommended for middle grade classrooms and libraries.