Kate Beasley’s debut, Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, tackles a range of topics that kids face in school and at home with pluck, humor, and heart. The book takes readers inside the charming mind of Gertie Reece Foy, a fifth grader living in a coastal Alabama town with her great-aunt while her father works on an offshore oil rig. To impress her estranged mother, who is moving away, Gertie is determined to shine as the “best fifth grader ever.” But her mission hits a snag with the arrival of the glamorous new girl Mary Sue, fresh off the plane from California. Soon, Gertie begins competing with Mary Sue for everything from seats in class to the lead in the school play — and, as a result, her self-confidence is rocked to the core.
Gertie is both entertaining and exceptionally realistic, and Beasley handles the character’s insecurities about her place in the world in a way that kids can relate to and sympathize with. Though sometimes it feels like there are one too many heartbreaking embarrassments bearing down on Gertie, the precocious grade-schooler is one readers will love to root for, and her zany antics make the lengthy 256-page tale worthwhile.