Phoenix, Upside Down

“Scarboro exhibits an uncommon ability . . . a story sparely told but rich in feeling.”

The Kirkus Review


Jamie is so angry with her parents for making her move to Arizona that she gives them the silent treatment for the first day of the drive.  And when she arrives, her pet rat dies from the heat, convincing her that her new home is going to be even worse than she’s expected.  And at first she’s right – recess is miserable and her grades flounder, while her younger sister Rachel is skating easily through the move.  But soon Rachel admits her own problems, and they figure out how to face their new city together, venturing out to find friendship where they’d least expected it.


Feeling displaced after her family's move to Arizona, a fourth grader finds the friends she needs to get her past the rough spots, in this graceful story from the author of The Secret Language of the SB (1990).

It's blisteringly hot, her pet rat Spotsey dies as a result of the trip, and Jamie has to start her new school before she can even bring herself to unpack. Although one classmate, Elise, is willing to sit with her at recess, and she forms a surprising friendship with Celia, an elderly neighbor, Jamie soon becomes withdrawn and distracted, and the quality of her schoolwork takes a serious slide. She isn't the only one having trouble adjusting: Her younger sister, Rachel, though outwardly serene, starts sleepwalking. Jamie's problems in school come out in a parent- teacher conference, Celia falls ill but gives and receives comfort from her bed, and Jamie and Elise test their friendship with a spat before tensions ease.

. . . Scarboro exhibits an uncommon ability to acquaint readers with these folk, through small incidents or in a few lines of dialogue. The sisters Jamie and Rachel talk freely with one another, and their rare friendship may be the most important one here, in a story that is sparely told but rich in feeling.

 The Kirkus Review